Ever since the beginning stages of planning this trip I have gazed upon photos of Halong Bay with longing eyes, my heart desperately desiring to travel there. The turquoise bay scattered with tropical jungle topped limestone islets is just so iconic and I was so over the moon that we would get to see it for ourselves! After the build-up and then slight disappointment in Sapa I had lowered all of my expectations for Halong. I told myself it didn’t matter if it was cloudy and mist would just add to the atmosphere of mystery. But wow oh wow, Halong Bay exceeded my greatest hopes and was honestly an absolute dream come true.
We arrived after THE most horrendous transport experience of all my travels: a 10 hour overnight bus including a near death experience involving a winding mountain pass and overtaking on a blind corner to miss a head-on collision with a truck by a matter of millimeters. The only foreigners on the bus being shoved right in the back in a dark hole while plenty of nice seats up front were unoccupied was fun too. Basically it was really stressful and highly terrifying. Vietnam overland transport is not for sissies!!!
We were exhausted after arriving at 3AM and so took a slow morning. In the afternoon we took a taxi from our hotel to the Bai Tho islet. This islet is attached to the mainland but is classified as the tallest islet of 1969 islets in Halong Bay. I’d read about a hike one can do up to the top, providing panoramic views of the bay. Without a local pointing out the narrow gap in the wall where you enter to find the trail, I’m not too sure how you’d find it. Needless to say it’s a bit of a hidden gem in otherwise rather touristy Halong. We walked for about half an hour through the tropical jungle, up, up, up to the top of the hill. Coming out on top, the view took my breath away (yes, I was a bit out of breath already from the climb! But we’re speaking figuratively here.) We looked out upon the mysterious and haunting lime stone islets that were scattered decoratively across the ocean vista before us. We sat there in silence for a while just taking it all in. WOW WOW WOW.
The next day we had booked a full day boat tour through the UNESCO world heritage site of Halong Bay. After being picked up and transported to the Marina, we boarded our boat: Huy Loc 6407. Our very fun and friendly tour guide, Quy, briefed us on the activities for the day and we set sail into the bay.
After exploring the inside of the cave we got back on the boat and were treated to a delicious and abundant spread of springrolls, prawns, fish, chicken, tofu, veggies and rice. All so flavoursome and plentiful.
After lunch we were taken to Luon Cave where we got onto bamboo boats and were rowed inside the cave which opened out onto a beautiful lagoon. The green water was lined naughty monkeys providing much entertainment. It was incredibly beautiful being out on the water in such serene conditions.
After a little while longer on our big boat we arrived at Ti Top island. Here we joined the hundreds of other tourists climbing up the steep steps to the view-point on top of the islet. Magnificently stunning but unfortunately a bit too crowded to enjoy for a nice amount of time. This was THE Halong Bay view though, the postcard shot. So I got my snap and headed back down to the beach.
We took a slow and gentle cruise back to the Marina. It was so quiet and so peaceful. I absolutely adored our time in Halong Bay and will cherish the memories for a loooong time. Definitely the highlight of our trip so far for me!
Next stop: Hoi An.