After our expedition into Sa Pa we arrived in Hanoi at 5:00AM – far too early to be awake on holidays. Our bus to Ha Long bay was 4 hours south of Hanoi and not the opportunity to sleep we were all hoping. Although believe it or not that is much better than the bus back. As I write this article I am quite literally sitting in a makeshift seat in the aisle of our bus with an “air-conditioning” system I am seriously questioning.
Nonetheless I digress Ha Long bay is beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and relax. If you ever decide to visit (and I strongly recommend that you do!) the only was to do Ha Long bay is to stay on the boats in the harbor.
Nestled amongst over 2,000 small islands that make up the bay the boats are a great way to explore, relax and unwind while meeting fellow crew mates and enjoying a few relaxing beers.
While enjoying the catered dinners and lunches we also had a chance to do a little kayaking, however our overly enthusiastic tour guide was less than impressed when we came back 15 minutes later than our time slot. Of course one kayak decided to circumnavigate the biggest island next to the meeting point and despite leaving to explore the amazing cave they had still not emerged 2 hours later. Beginneth the search for our missing crew, 2.5 hours after setting off they emerged in one piece, and it was not all bad – first round of drinks were on them!
The amazing cave was as expected – amazing. It was fascinating to see the cave formation, and perhaps almost as impressively the roof of the cave had been restored with cement to prevent collapses. That is fascinating in and of itself because there is no machinery, or equipment within quite literally kilometers. All of it would have been carried in by hand, and given the tight entrances done with only the most basic of tools.
We enjoyed a great night, drinking a few quiet ones as we made new friends and traded tales of our journeys – a beautiful way to spend the night amongst the serenity of the islands, and the glittering enchantment of the other ships in the bay.
Day 2 we had another chance to go swimming and kayaking, or relaxing on the boats. Certainly a good way to spend the day and break up a little of the partying that has previously occupied my time. One of the highlights of the second day was exploring the oyster/pearl farm in Ha Long Bay. It was quite interesting to see how pearls are farmed for jewelry here in Vietnam.
Learning specifically about how the oysters are implanted with a plastic pearl and membranes to stimulate the development of the pearls, and the start of a process that takes upwards of 8 years till they are fully ready. Of course no visit to a tourist destination is complete without some way to separate you from your hard earned. To be fair the jewelry was exquisite – especially the black pearls that were simply amazing, also very expensive.
For this entry I am going to let some of the pictures do the talking – but I will say make sure Ha Long is on the to visit list in Vietnam.