When we arrived in our hotel in Hanoi (Click Here), we immediately booked a Halong Bay tour for the following day. Halong Bay is about 170 km east of Hanoi, approximately 3 hours drive one way, so it was to be an early night for us because we were leaving early the next morning.
Photo Credit: Click Here
We were the first to be picked up and were shortly joined by some more tourists from a nearby hotel. Then, off we went for the 3-hour drive to Halong Bay. At the port, we were gathered around and given instructions since we were not boarding right away. The port was lined with white boats that have seen better days.
When we finally boarded, there were people already at the seating area inside and the boat was full. I had a brief opportunity to walk around before departure and saw that there were several lounge chairs on the top deck. I noticed that the kitchen area was very busy as lunch was included in our tour. After a few more minutes, we set sail to visit one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam.
Video Credit: YouTube (ThailandPresent)
Halong Bay is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage site and it features thousands of limestone cliffs.
Lunch was served and I was personally in heaven. Some of the people in my table were not very adventurous in trying different kinds of food. Being raised in the Philippines, I was quite familiar with some dishes. Although presented differently, I had an idea of how they tasted. The table was heavy with different dishes of meat, fish and other seafood excellently prepared. My stomach was pretty happy at this moment. After lunch, we docked in Bo Hon island.
Sung Sot Cave
In Bo Hon Island is the famous Sung Sot Cave. To get into the mouth of the cave, we had to climb up what seemed like a hundred steps (it was a good thing they fed us beforehand)..but don’t worry, on your way up, there are trees all around and you can rest and enjoy the panoramic view of the bay down below. (Please click here for more information about the cave)
The cave was massive with thousands of magnificent stalactites and a pathway lined up with light posts. The whole place looked like a “fancy” cave because it was illuminated with lights of different colors for a more dramatic view. The cave seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie. Finally, we took the descending steps back to the boat. It was a lot easier this time and we still had the great view of the bay.
Video Credit: YouTue (Takashi Matsumura)
Next, we headed for the Floating Village, a few minutes’ boat ride along the bay with the limestone cliffs view. It is a very special attraction for tourists because here you get to observe how the villagers work and live off of the bay. It reminded me of the movie “Water World”, where houses were clustered together, rising and falling with the tides. This particular floating village, though, was surrounded by limestone cliffs to help protect them from storms and typhoons.
Here, the houses are floating right next to each other. Fishing is the main source of food and the the only way to get around is by boat.
There is even a floating school to provide education for the children of the Floating Village. The kids here probably learned to swim before they can walk and very early on they know how to thrive in this unique way of life.
Now, time for the fun stuff: kayaking. Kayaking is the best way to explore the areas with tighter passages and other places where the bigger boats can’t go. Make sure to put on a life vest..safety IS important. We had the choice to paddle or have a “boat driver” and since I didn’t bring any clothes with me (well, just the ones I had on), we decided to let an expert show us around.
We were able to go through some of the smaller, cave-like channels, which opened up to a wider bay. These passages looked amazing inside and they led to even more inlets waiting to be explored. You can take a dip if you have an extra change of clothes (because I don’t think they allow skinny dipping), or if you’re already wearing swimwear, air-dry away.
If you want to take your time, I would recommend spending a night or two for the tour. Check the weather though because they most likely will not allow overnight stays if there are any incoming storms in the forecast.
It was a long day in Halong Bay..but not nearly long enough.