Hanoi to Ha Long BayOctober 12, 2015 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F
For a change of scenery from the hectic streets of the nation's capital we took a boat tour out to what has been titled as one of the seven natural wonders of the world - Ha Long Bay.
The name 'Ha Long' means 'descending dragons' and was given because from a distance the tall limestone islands appear like the curved backs of these mythical creatures. We were told there are 1969 islands in total, a poignant number to the Vietnamese with it being the year Ho Chi Minh died.
Our three tier wooden ship of greying white and mahogany coasted its way out of Ha Long harbour and took a path out into the bay, passing through the imposing limestone cliffs of the closely-knit islands. The sun remained hidden behind cloud but it's penetrating light left a white haze over the horizon, giving the more distant islands a mysterious aura.
We docked outside the Sung Sot Cave, the concave of its mouth high up on the cliff-face. Climbing a narrow staircase we entered into three lit caverns, each larger than the previous. Millions of years old, the ceiling appeared like a Gaudi sculpture, honed away by water that had once crashed around inside before the sea receded.
Afterwards we went by boat to Ti Top Island, which was named by Ho Chi Minh after the Russian cosmonaut, Gherman Titov, when he visited in 1962 ('Ti Top' being how the Vietnamese pronounce Titov). Again we climbed a steep staircase to the island's summit, where we gazed out upon a panoramic view. Down below in the bay, the many anchored tour boats shrank in the still grey waters against the island cliffs jutting skyward.
Meals on the boat were eaten communally, with us sharing platters of local cuisine between our tables as a Vietnamese family would do. There were French, Vietnamese, Korean and Malaysian travellers onboard but they spoke very little English. Fortunately we met a friendly couple, Eddie and Jacqueline from Singapore, who spoke excellent English, were well travelled and had a daughter studying business at Manchester University. Despite Eddy being a Manchester United supporter, we got on very well and they were great company to share our Ha Long Bay experience with.Read more