Halong Bay

Halong Bay Travel Blog

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Ooo it's scary!

We wanted to spend a couple of days away from the city, as we have had quite a busy few weeks, so went with our hostel on a trip to Halong Bay, east of Hanoi.


It started with a coach journey, and to be honest, it nearly ended right there. We unfortunately ended up on the back seats so felt every bump and bounce, plus had the somewhat dubious benefits of an elevated position.

Other junks waiting to depart
We first became aware of this when we saw the driver get up, walk about 4 rows back, and reach above the seats to get money for the toll we were about to go through. No problem you might think, except that the coach was STILL MOVING. There were 5 of us on the back seat and we just looked at each other and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Thankfully the guys on the seat in front of ours had brought along some super strength rice wine (40%) for occasions such as this, and we sat back to 'enjoy' the rest of the journey. This consisted of driving consistantly on the wrong side of the road whether there was oncoming traffic or not, and swerving to avoid a herd of cows who were wandering haphazardly down the centre.


There were about 30 of us on the trip, and we had been given stupid hats to wear in order to identify us from any other group.

We realised when we got to Halong City (the most ill deserved name I've ever heard) that they were necessary as several hundred other people were there doing the same thing as us. We made our way down to the dock, scrambled down some crumbled old steps, and staggered on board our hotel for the next 2 days, a restored junk, that I presume used to be used as a merchant ship. We were filled up with petrol by some strange teenage boys who were fascinated by Lisa's tattoo, and moved off, thankfully away from the millions of other boats.


The weather was not that great, but as soon as we moved into the bay area the views surrounding us were stunning. Halong Bay is a UNESCO heritage site, and the photos we have taken (once again) do not do it justice. The water was completely still, we could have been on land, and the silence was almost overwhelming.

Limestone rocks jutted out of the water, caused by movement of techtonic plates (or something like that), it was just stunning. We cruised around for a bit, then stopped and were told that we could jump in for a swim! Some of the braver members of the group (Lisa included) jumped off the top, but the rest of us hopped in off the side.


After a quick swim, we got into kayaks and paddled through the rock formations into smaller and smaller coves. Legend has it that the rocks are the scales on the back of a giant dragon who came up from the water in order to create an almost inpenetrable maze to protect the mainland from invaders. As we reached what we thought was the end, our guide disappeared into the rock, and we followed, through a cave-like tunnel with stalactites hanging from the ceiling and the sound of bats! On the other side was another beautiful little cove.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse and by this point it was actually pouring with hot rain, we were abit concerned that it might thunder and our oars turn into lightening conductors! It was good rain though, as we were soaking wet from swimming anyway, and the extra heat would have been too much for the kayaking.


After the kayaking and a bit more swimming, we sailed onwards to a small cave, where we were given 4 torches (between 30 of us). Our guide vanished as soon as we entered, and unless you were next to someone with a torch you had to take photos with flash to work out where you were. Not fun. Somehow we managed to get part way inside, and some of the boys decided to try and climb up some larger rocks to get to a bit at the top. If we had more torches I'm sure it would have been better, but as it was, it was just stupid and dangerous.

Pitch black caves
Luckilly no one fell down the grave like pit in the middle, but that was more luck that judgement!


We got back in time for a seafood dinner, where I was laughed at for exclaiming 'surprise' when I was faced with a huge prawn with eyes and feelers. Lisa wasn't too impressed when I squeezed the head and prawn gunk flew out at her, but I though I did a reasonable job! After a vodka based award ceremony celebrating the achievements of various individuals throughout the day (most suicidal bellyflop, sinking an unsinkable kayak etc etc), the fun and frolics began in earnest, culminating in naked diving off the boat. Unfortunately for some, their 'overexuberance' resulted in some painful jellyfish stings, as you couldn't see them coming in the dark! Needless to say, we were spectators rather than participants!!


The next morning we had to get up early for breakfast before sailing slowly back to the harbour.

Some of the group had paid for an extra day to do some rock climbing, but the rest of us enjoyed the slow sail back. The weather had cleared up and the views of the rock formations were stunning. In fact the day turned into a scorcher, and all 3 of us got burnt!! Once back on dry land we had ANOTHER seafood lunch (and once again Lisa had some green leafy stuff....) before boarding the coach back to Hanoi, thankfully with a slightly better driver than the first!!



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Ooo its scary!
Ooo it's scary!
Other junks waiting to depart
Other junks waiting to depart
Pitch black caves
Pitch black caves
Halong Bay