Travel Diary: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – Part One

 dsc00066We were running late that morning because of me as usual and when we finished breakfast, we headed straight downstairs. The bus had just arrived and was already loading our luggage so we quickly jumped on and chose some seats. The bus stopped a couple more times and eventually filled up with about 15 or so people before we were on our way to Ha Long Bay. There were lots of little towns and villages along the road that we took and although it was a main road, some parts were just dirt and extremely bumpy. Halfway there we stopped at the strangest rest stop I had ever been to. As you drive in there are hundreds of statues in the garden – some were taller than our bus! We jumped off and went inside to find that we were basically at an overpriced souvenir shop. They had clothes, food, jewellery and even furniture but it was all so expensive. We didn’t really want to buy any food but we had to because we were starving. With our little pit stop it took around 5 hours to get to Ha Long bay and then we had to wait another half hour or so before we could board our junk boat.

 

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This is where we waited for our little boat.

Once it was time, we piled onto a small wooden boat which took us out to our junk boat and once aboard, everyone met up in the dining room to go through all the general introduction stuff before having lunch and receiving our room keys. Junk boats are a completely unique and exciting experience and it is said that if you don’t spend time on a junk boat whilst there, then you haven’t really experienced the true beauty of Ha Long bay.

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On our way to our junk boat, which you can see in the background.

The company we chose to book with was called “Majestic cruises” and I could not be happier with that choice. There were so many junk boats moored in the bay and ours was definitely one of the nicer looking boats. When booking, I actually chose this company based on affordability rather than comfortability so turning up to find the best of both worlds was quite a nice surprise.

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Eddy & Krystal taking in the sights.

The boat had three levels, the bottom level was where we got on and off the boat and most of the rooms were on that level also. On the second level were the bar, dining room and a couple more guest rooms – including ours as we had booked a deluxe room. It did not cost much extra for the deluxe room and it was definitely worth it as it had a better view and much more space. The top level of the boat was one big deck surrounded by a nice white fencing and there was an enclosed room towards the back leading out to a smaller, covered deck.

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There were all kinds of boats travelling around Ha Long Bay.

Once we finished lunch and settled into our rooms we grabbed a drink at the bar and headed straight to the top deck. After walking around to find the best view we settled in on a table and chairs at the front of the deck to relax and take in the amazing scenery.

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Ha Long Bay is an absolutely stunning UNESCO World Heritage site.

You may think that you would get over it quick but even after 24 hours I did not get sick of seeing these beautiful formations. Some of them have caves and some little beaches – others look as though they are hovering above the water due to the interesting way erosion has shaped them. The grey colour of the rocks with leafy green trees jutting out of them cut gorgeously against the pale, Aqua water of the bay and it was absolutely surreal.

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The area contains thousands of limestone Karsts and Isles, each just as breathtaking as the next. 

After cruising along for a little while, we pulled up in a large cove and jumped on the smaller boat again which we had been towing. The small boat took us to a small concrete area on the shore which had a ticket booth, steep narrow stairs up the cliff and a whole lot of people around. Our group gathered together in front of a large UNESCO billboard as our tour guide Frank handed out our tickets to the limestone caves.

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I hate crowds and I hate big steep stairs.

Once the group was sorted, we began to head up the stairs along with a million other people and found ourselves in an awesome cave perfectly complimented by some purple lighting. There was a large group walking through and we managed to all get separated for the first 5 or 10 mins just following the flow of the crowd through the caves.

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This purple cave was beautiful, definitely even better in person.

Suddenly we were in a giant cave with incredible rainbow lighting and had somehow managed to all find each other again. There actually seemed to be a lot less people here too – much to our relief.   Our guide was pointing out formations in the rocks and told us stories about their meanings. We listened intently and hung onto every word of his stories before he couldn’t take it any longer and admitted in a fit of laughter that he made them up. He really made the entire experience so fun, enjoyable and full of laughter.

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This cave area was absolutely massive and very, very cool.

Once we left this big cave we wound through our way up a little further to a small handmade gift shop laid up against the limestone wall on a viewing platform. We thought the cove looked so nice when we pulled up at shore but seeing the cove from up here is a view I will never forget.

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My attempt at taking a panoramic.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to get properly acquainted with my new camera before leaving for Vietnam so the photos I took from this platform do not do the view justice one bit. After this it was time to go so we wound our way through some more caves and down to the bottom again.

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That little lagoon on the right there makes this scene just marvellous.

There was a traditional red wooden bridge built into the limestone over the edge of the water. We walked along this bridge to a straw gazebo which joined to another bridge leading to the boat. By this point I was already head over heels in love with Ha Long bay.

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A little piece of magic.

Part Two will be uploaded tomorrow. Check back to read about our adventures at a floating pearl farm, impromptu squid fishing and kayaking through the floating fishing villages that have to be seen to be believed.

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You can’t help but feel relaxed with a view like this!

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