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Winter Days in the Bay of the Descending Dragon

January 05, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 176

Winter isn't always the best time to cruise Ha Long Bay, the best time usually falls around summer time, when the bay is warm and the days last longer then in the winter. However, my quick winter trip was wonderful and better then I expected when I went on a Ha Long Bay cruise in December.

We arrived in Hanoi at 8:00 a.m. and we got to Bai Chay port around 11:30 am. As I got out of the car, the salty sea air blew through my hair, the northeast monsoon covered the entire port with a fresh, cold breeze. Up in the air, there were some eagles flying by; this was the first time, I saw an eagle that close. It took about 1 hour on our junk (a Vietnamese cruise ship) to arrive at Ha Long Bay. There is no doubt in my mind why Halong Bay was recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage site. My first thought of the junk ship we took out on our Ha Long Bay cruise was that it looked like a small floating hotel. Taking a look inside the rooms and other facilities, I was surprised by its modern, charming feel. The rooms on board the ship met the standards for a typical 4 star hotel, but we weren't at a hotel, we were cruising out at sea on wooden vessel; I was amazed.

Our junk cruised slowly on the green water while we enjoyed lunch with deliciously fresh sea food. After lunch, I had some free time to relax before our kayaking trip on Ha Long bay in the afternoon. I took my favorite book and read it on the sundeck where I could receive a nice tan. Sitting on the lounge chair, a light breeze blew all around me, as I looked around; our junk was surrounded by towering karsts emerging out of the water. The sun shone over the karsts on a rare sunny day in winter.

Ha Long Bay has over 2,000 islets with thousands of limestone karsts. Long ago, the Vietnamese people decided the islets in Halong bay presented many great hidden treasures. Many of the islets were named according to their shape: Ga Chọi (Fighting cocks) islet, Dua (Chopsticks) islet, Cho Da islet (Stone dog) and many others. Since the French colonial period, the french discovered the primitive beauty of Ha Long Bay, they were amazed by it so much that the image of Ha Long Bay was used on the countries stamps, postcards and other documents. Ha Long Bay is also famous for its caves and grottos such as: Sung Sot (Surprised) cave and Thien Cung (Sky Place) grotto. In side each cave or grotto there are hidden chambers with stalactites dropping from the ceiling, creating an amazing experience as you kayaking through the caves.

During the afternoon, we kayaked through a floating village named Cua Vạn. Paddling around the village, observing the life of people who live every day in the floating village was an experience I can't describe with words alone. In the floating village, if you want to visit your next-door neighbor, you have to use a boat to go visit him, otherwise your choice is to swim. That's why the locals here say that the children can swim and row before they can even walk. Touring Ha Long Bay is a beautiful destination for exploring and experiencing as a tourist, but for fishermen here Halong bay is a blessing from above and their main source for earning a living. The variety of marine ecosystems in Ha Long Bay brings fishermen many types of seafood that only Halong has. We paddled by a fisherman while on our kayaks; he was on a small boat with his fresh catch of crab for the day. We purchased some of the freshly caught crab, put them in a bag in our kayak with plans to give them to the cruise ship's chef for dinner tonight. As we continued our kayaking trip on the bay we kayaked into a series of caves. Despite the bright sun outside, it got darker and darker as we paddled deeper into the cave, hundreds of stalactites dropped down all around us.

After enjoying the caves, we decided to paddle back to the cruise ship for dinner. For dinner that night, our chef surprised us again with a variety of wonderful seafood made in both traditional Vietnamese and Western style and of course he prepared a special delicious dish from our fresh crabs that we brought him earlier. After dinner we enjoyed drinks at the ship bar and exchanged laughs between the ships staff and eachother of the days events. They shared their boat stories with us of their adventures cruising on Ha Long bay.

The next morning I woke up early to catch the beautiful rising sun on the deck of our cruise ship, which I was told from the staff was a must see. Waking up at 5:30 am, there was nothing but darkness, I was disappointed thinking that the day would be foggy and cool. Totally wrapped in my blanket standing on the sun deck of the cruise ship I looked out over Ha Long Bay and desperately waited. Finally, my patience paid off, directly in front of the bow of the ship, the sun slowly rose above two limestone pillars. Looking behind me on the stern, the full-moon was still in the sky and clearly visible, it was a magical moment seeing both the aurora sky behind me and the red, yellow and pink sky in front of me. As I watched the sunlight reflect on the green water, iridescent as honey, I thought to myself that I've never seen the sun and the moon this big before, I felt that I could reach out and hold it with my hands. Black karsts gradually turned deep green as the sun rose over them and the wildlife woke up as I watched eagles fly overhead as they began searching for breakfast. Birds all around started singing, taking a deep breath, I enjoyed the nature that surrounded us.

After breakfast, we left Halong and headed back to Bai Chay port, once there we traveled back to Hanoi. Leaving Halong bay with tons of photos and memories, we we're excited by all we got to see and experience during such a short trip. A cruise on Ha Long Bay provides people who travel to Vietnam many activities, from kayaking, swimming, fishing and diving, Ha Long Bay is a great destination for the adventure traveler who enjoys getting out and seeing nature.

Brad loves traveling Southeast Asia as a writer for Exotic Voyages; a Vietnam based tour operator that provides Luxury and Adventure Travel Tours throughout Southeast Asia including Vietnam Luxury Travel, Laos Luxury Travel, Cambodia Luxury Travel and Thailand. Learn more about Exotic Voyages and all the exciting trips Brad and others have been on at

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