Halong Bay

Date: 05/06/2007 | Author: Dave

Ahh... Halong Bay. With 3000 limestone islands rising steeply from the bay, this is a must see. We had heard that Halong Bay was dirty and crowded but visiting with this in mind we were pleasantly surprised. Twice we swam off the back of our boat. The water is a milky turquoise (probably from the limestone) and so has limited visibility but it is not polluted. As we chug slowly around in our boat we do see the occasional shoe or plastic bag floating by but this is Asia and unfortunately that is normal.
Our boat is the Lagoon Explorer, a junk that sleeps seven and boasts that it is the only junk in Halong capable of actually sailing. Always a romantic notion but I wasn't really expecting them to attempt it. The sails were hoisted for atmosphere only.
A one night trip only scratches the near edge of the bay but still manages to show us enough to satisfy. We were taken on our tender through a low cave into a peaceful lagoon completely surrounded by virgin jungle and rock escarpments. We ruined the peace of several kayakers as we chugged in, but switched our motor off and joined their tranquility for a while. Next stop was Dao Titop for a quick walk up the 402 steps to the viewing pagoda. Well worth an elevated look over the bay from here. (see photo page)
We were sharing our boat with three Australian ladies. An ex-schoolteacher, Sue, provided Ella with hours of chat. It was a match made in heaven. Someone that seemed to know something about most things and Ella, who is never short of a question.
All of the junks moor up overnight in the same location (so the police can keep an eye on them) which makes the bay seem crowded as we settle down to our dinner. Dinner, mon Dieu, I have never been so overfed. Six courses and a lot of it. Good, fresh seafood.
First stop in the morning was Hang Sot Cave, which has three chambers and a total area of one square kilometre. All the usual cave highlights here. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you use your imagination you can see..." a woman praying, a lion, a peacock and some broccoli, all very nicely lit. Myself, I was impressed by the enormity of the main chamber (the biggest I have seen) and the caves premier stalagmites, the giant pink penis and the big green turtle. No imagination required for these two.
A short trip to Halong but perhaps that is all we needed. Happily heading back to Hanoi.

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