Vietnam: Halong Bay

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Halong Bay….

clear blue skies and a gentle calm breeze. I couldn’t have asked for a better day to sail out here! The junk boat used to be white and looked like it had seen better days.  The words “BIEN NGOC CRUISER” in fire red were placed across the entire side of it topped with Vietnam’s official flag – red with a small yellow star in the center.

The group was handed fresh juice by a silent baby-faced Vietnamese teenager. It takes a good while to get out to the middle of the bay – do not think that where we are docked is where Halong Bay is. It’s not.

Where we dock is crowded, dirty + gross but not out in the middle of the bay…although I don’t recommend swimming in there.  We sailed out with other boats but soon it was quiet and we were on our own. It truly is a great experience. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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 According to local legend, when Vietnam had just started to develop into a country, they had to fight against invaders. To assist the Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders.

Under magics, numerous rock mountains abruptly appeared on the sea, ahead of invaders’ ships; the forward ships struck the rocks and each other. After winning the battle, the dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the Earth, and then decided to live in this bay.  (source)

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We sailed to the Hang Sung Sot caves – the “cave of surprises.” It was discovered in 1901 by the French and is now a tourist attraction. The cave is amazing and wondrous but is ruined by these colorful neon lights they display.

I guess the lights are for people to see where they are going but it makes the entire thing a little bit tacky and I would have preferred seeing the cave in it’s natural setting – although the lights did make it a little easier to take pictures. The cave wasn’t packed with other tourists so I was able to explore everything at my own pace.

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On the way back to the junk boat, we were taken on a little boat ride around the inside of the rocks where only small boats and kayaks can go through. I saw a good number of people on their kayaks having a good time. Everybody was quiet during this ride – observing in wonderment I want to think.

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The entire gallery is after the jump!