Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 5: Halong Bay in a Day

Halong Bay Day, finally!

For our Halong Bay tour, we chose to go with a guided group tour, again for economical reasons. Halong Bay is located in Quang Ninh Province, which is a good four hours away from Hanoi so even if we had an early head start, we arrived at the Bai Chay Tourist Wharf at noon. This was our jump-off point to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The monolithic rocks of Halong Bay over floating fishing villages

What makes Halong Bay amazing is the giant rock structures towering above everything else. They make you stop and wonder how they were formed or what lies beneath those monoliths. I wasn’t very enticed by the water, however. It was green and disappointingly dirty. I think this was because the area where we stopped was near floating fishing villages.

We had the chance to go boating or kayaking (for an additional fee) but since the waters weren’t pleasing to the sight and the weather was uncooperatively high (‘twas hooooot!), we lounged in the shaded portion of the awesome roof deck of our boat, just taking the sights in. 

Tourists boating on the bay

There are tours that go for as long as two to three days and they usually explore other islands in Halong Bay. That’s something I’d like to try in one of my future travels. :)

Looks like a scene from a movie, but this is an actual shot of natural light
shining beautifully inside Thien Cung Grotto.

One of the stopovers of the day tour was the Thien Cung Grotto. I’m no fan of caves but this was a sight to see. It’s not purely natural now that they put in concrete steps for the tourists and installed artificial lights. I must say though that the lights illuminated the beauty of the stalactites.

Just look at those formations behind me!

We got back in Hanoi a bit late that night and refusing to feel drained or defeated – we just spent eight hours traveling, which was more than the time it took to tour Halong Bay – I dragged my travel buddy to a restaurant to grab dinner before retiring for the night. We found a nice restaurant, Newday, which was small and almost inconspicuous but served a very delicious and cheap dinner. I also didn’t let the occasion pass without tasting Vietnamese beer, Bia Hanoi, which was served in a 420ml bottle, making our local beers look puny. 

Bia Hanoi. Ahhh, beer. That magic elixir after a long, tiring day. :)

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