Halong Bay, Vietnam

After arriving in Hanoi, our first excursion we took was to Halong Bay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  From Hanoi, we took a quick bus ride (around 2 hours) out to Halong City, which is about 160 km northeast of Hanoi.  Once we arrived at the harbour, we could see just how big a tourist attraction these 2000 islets are.  Literally hundreds of boats were waiting to pick up passengers.  Fortunately, after boarding our junk, the “Aloha Junk,” and after leaving the harbor area, there was plenty of space for everyone and it felt like we had the whole bay to ourselves.

Halong Bay - Daytime IslandOne of 1,969 limestone islets with many more in the

Halong Bay - Top of JunkThe top deck of our junk gave us some pretty spectacular

Just being in the bay and being a witness to the existence of such natural beauty was a great experience.  But there was more to our trip than simply seeing the islets.  We also had the opportunity to visit a floating village.

Halong Bay - Jen and Jeff in HatsJen and I are on the way to the floating village.  Decked
out with my conical hat, I was getting in touch with my
Asian heritage.

The floating village that we visited was home to about 50 families and has been around since 1960.  In the Halong Bay area, there are three other villages, two of which are much smaller, and the last being quite large (around 1000 people) and over 2000 years old.

These villagers built their houses out on the water to be more efficient fishermen.  Rather than wasting time rowing their boats back to the harbor each and every day, they stay out on the water for several days and return to the city to sell their fish once every few days.  More time spent fishing and less time spent rowing means more money in the pocket.

Halong Bay - RowboatA woman in a rowboat in Halong Bay.  This is a very
common method of transportation in this area.

Halong Bay - FishermanA fisherman from the floating village.

After visiting the floating village, we had an opportunity to go for a swim.  Though some in our group may have been tempted to cool down, we all opted to forgo the dip when we learned that there were jellyfish lurking about.  Even though our guides told us not to worry and that they wouldn’t kill us, only sting a little, no one was persuaded to change their minds.

Halong Bay - Floating VillageOne of the many houses from the floating village.
Some houses even had televisions inside.

We set sail once again, away from the floating village and into a relatively protected and calm area, surrounded by islets.  When we booked our tour, we were a little concerned about what kind of boat we’d be staying in, as we’d heard and read about some people who did not have positive experiences (rats on the boat where you slept would qualify…).  So we decided to spend a little more to make sure that we’d have a decent place to sleep.  There were certainly other options where we could have really splurged, but that definitely wasn’t necessary.  It turned out that the Aloha Junk was one of the nicer places we’d stayed in so far in our journey!  A room with a/c and a bathroom was certainly quite luxurious for us.

Halong Bay - Sunset 1Setting down anchor for the night, the sky over the islets
turned a pale purple before the sun set.

The next morning we were due to visit one of the largest caves on any of the islets in Halong Bay, but the weather had other plans for us.  Unfortunately, a typhoon was on its way and so we, along with all the hundreds of other boats we had seen at our departure, were ordered back to port.  We didn’t get any rain for a few hours after returning, but as we sailed back, we could definitely see one half of the sky darkening.

In northern Vietnam, there are two things that most every tourist will do – go to Halong Bay, and go to Sapa.  Although we were certainly traveling a well worn road and doing the tourist thing, one can easily see why it is so touristy.  Luckily for us, once we were on the boat and out on the water, it felt as if we were one of only a few boats in the bay.  I would certainly recommend a visit to Halong Bay, and if we’re ever back in the area, I’d consider going back, next time throwing in a little kayaking on our tour.

Halong Bay - Sunset 2There are so many islets in the bay that looking into
the distance gives the impression that we are looking
at a mountain range rather a series of islets in the


~ by dawseng on July 28, 2009.

One Response to “Halong Bay, Vietnam”

  1. Mr. Eng, after seeing you in a cone hat in so many of my dreams, it is a true delight to see it in reality. Now would it kill you to get a picture of yourself wading in a rice paddy? For me?

    I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

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