Welcome to Saturday Sights, a blog feature I began a few weeks ago. For various reasons, there was a hiatus, and I’m just getting back to it. This edition features Ha Long Bay (Halong Westernized), a famous UNESCO World Heritage site on the northeast coast of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. If you are wondering about the name, Ha Long translates as “descending dragon.”
I visited in 2015 on a one-day tour from Ha Noi. Ha Long Bay is about 140 miles (225 km) southeast of the city. The two-lane highway is flanked by an impressive number of factories, warehouses and assembly plants for well-known electronics, automobile, and appliance manufacturers.
Tour prices are extremely reasonable. Currently, you can book a two-day tour with very nice sleep-aboard accommodations for less than $100.
The drive from Ha Noi took nearly three hours each way as motorbikes, trucks, and other local traffic slowed faster vehicles. Our small air-conditioned coach was very comfortable, and the drive is a great way to see the countryside.
Ha Long Bay consists of several thousand small islands and limestone karsts. The bay covers an area of about 600 sqm (1,500 sqkm). We transferred to Junks for the cruise.
The cruise included a scrumptious family-style seafood lunch with local beer for a nominal additional charge. After travelling in Asia for several years, I prefer fish cooked and served whole. Some guests were not used to it.
The first stop was at a small floating village where I rented a kayak to view the limestone formations from sea level.
If you go kayaking, I recommend swimwear as it is impossible to avoid getting water inside the boat.
After kayaking, the cruise continued under bright sunshine to visit some of the caves on the islands.
Over eons, dripping water has formed huge stalactites and stalagmites. Some have strange and grotesque shapes. Accent lighting makes the experience more dramatic.
Portions of the caves are also illuminated by natural light.
The last stop was Monkey Island where the main attraction is, you guessed it, those madcap, adorable, and sometimes downright pesky primates. Watch your stuff! If being outwitted by monkeys is not your cup of tea, you can also enjoy a short trek.
If you are ever in the vicinity of Ha Noi, Vietnam, a trip to Ha Long Bay is a must. I intend to go back one day. Next time I will do a two-day tour. Have you been to this amazing locale or have plans?
Thanks for reading, and stay well!