We decided to splurge and go on a day tour of Ha Long Bay, one of UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage sites. We booked a tour through our hotel for $50 USD each. After the chaos of Hanoi the day before, we were looking forward to being herded around by a tour guide.
Ha Long bay literally means ‘descending dragon’. As Vietnamese legend has it, the Vietnamese were under attack, and the Mother Dragon and her children descended to earth to help the Vietnamese defend themselves. When the enemies’ ships approached, the dragons spewed emeralds to form a wall and stop the ships. Those emeralds are now the islands that you see in Ha Long bay.
The trip to Ha Long Bay takes about 3 hours from Hanoi. It is about 170km, but it takes a long time because of the chaotic traffic and poor roading. Once there, all thirty of us were shepherded onto a small boat for lunch while pulling out from the dock.
Ha Long Bay is beautiful. We had heard that it was polluted and too busy, but the water looked clear, and we found the number of boats to be enough to add to the charm without feeling over-populated.
First, we stopped at a floating dock for a short bamboo boat ride. There was an option for kayaking, but Matt and I are still a bit disabled from our bike crashes a month ago. The bamboo boat was pleasant, though.
Then, we visited the Heaven Palace cave. It was phenomenal – we’ve never seen anything like it before. The photos don’t do it justice.
We were then herded back onto the boat for the long trip back to Hanoi. We enjoyed the day and it was good to have a short break from Hanoi. We had one day left for sightseeing before flying to Hue on Wednesday 12 December.