Endless Sights of Ha Long Bay
What draws people to Hanoi beyond its charming culture and festive city vibe is the proximity to Ha Long Bay. I wouldn’t deny, my main purpose in visiting the city was to get a chance to see one of the most magnificent UNESCO World Heritage sites of Northern Vietnam.
HA LONG BAY DAY TOUR
Travel agency tip: I was able to book my Ha Long Bay Standard Day Tour for 25USD (tax included, other agencies charge tax from their published rates) from APT Travel Agency. They have one of the lowest prices in the Old Quarter District. They accept USD and credit card but with additional 3.5% charge on top of the total price. The staff was nice and accommodating which is definitely recommendable.
I booked a standard Ha Long Bay day tour as I didn’t want to spend much for a fancier junk boat and food options. Similar to most tours, I was picked up by a minibus in front of my hotel at 8.45AM. The minibus was already filled with tourists with delight in their faces.
But as 2 hours went by, the sun was already striking and the air condition of the minibus could not longer keep the smiling faces upbeat. For some reason, the minibus had a quick toilet stopover at this tourist
trap shop selling beautiful white marble statues and other souvenirs.
I don’t know if people were really interested in buying these or even looking at them but it was a relief in the eyes after seeing endless rice fields half way through our journey to Ha Long Bay.
Another 2 grueling hours passed by inside the steaming minibus, we have finally reached our destination. All of us were thrilled disembarking, but upon getting us rambled with other tour groups in the pier, it was a plain chaos without definite instruction where we were heading.
Despite the uncertainty and hunger we were dealing with, I was still thrilled seeing these junk boats before my eyes!
We have finally boarded and all our eyes were pointing towards the kitchen waiting for the food to be served. One by one, the shared food was served per table. Considering it was a standard tour, it was pleasurable having rice, sauteed fish, tofu, mixed vegetables, squid, spring rolls and crisps in our table.
With our starving stomachs, the feast didn’t last long and we finished just before these wonderful natural structures appeared closely before our eyes. It finally reminded me that this is what I came for!
Almost everyone went out and immediately took pictures and gazing while cruising slowly in the bay, I, included. I couldn’t help but be mesmerized with endless of towering limestone islets sprinkled with rainforests.
The first stop of the tour was kayaking but for a reasonable fee of 3USD, while others went swimming in the murky bay water (which was for free, of course). I stayed in the boat having conversations with other solo travelers talking about what we love most–traveling. It wasn’t physically challenging but it was mentally and emotionally stimulating that inspire me to travel more.
30 minutes later of chitchatting and gazing out the window, it was time for the boat to cruise around the bay. I was drifting in awe while cruising the mesmerizing sights of endless towering limestone islets.
I could not believe how massive the Bay was considering we were only cruising a fraction of the entire Bay. How I would love to see the roughly 2,000 islets in a 3-day cruise someday!
The second and last stop was the Dong Thien Cung Cave. We had to disembark and take a short flight of stairs to reach the cave entrance. With my weary eyes, I wasn’t too keen on getting off the boat, but the misty chill of the caves was fulfilling to miss in this humid weather.
I was startled with how colorful the lights were that made the natural classic beauty of the cave looked kitsch as if I was in a theme park. Despite its strange setup, I wandered around the cave for about 15 minutes and enjoyed how marvelous these massive dome of stalagmites were.
Upon walking out the cave, a nice surprise of the bay welcomed my glaring eyes. It was always a delight every time I see these limestone islets near my sight.
The tour ended after cruising for roughly 4 hours. It was a short beautiful cruise but my eyes were rewarded with so much spectacular limestone islands dramatically placed around the emerald bay. It was time for us to go back to Hanoi and the 4 hour minibus ride ordeal was already waiting for us.
Despite not having clear water to boast, the endless sights of limestone islets of Ha Long Bay gave me the magical feeling that I could not explain how amazed I was. This is one of the places that has remarkable feeling of happiness that I would cherish in my lifetime.