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Vietnam: Can Tho, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City
Halong Bay, Vietnam: Emerald green
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Halong Bay is about 170 kms. east of Hanoi. The bay is famous for its scenic ocean karst topography and is often included in lists of natural wonders of the world. The bay is located in the area of the Gulf of Tangkia. When in Vietnam on a holiday, spending at least a night is quite mandatory.
We arrived in Hanoi late in the evening. That night we stayed at Intercontinental West Lake, a beautiful property built on the waters. We had a room overlooking the vast lake. Just a night's stay was not doing justice to the view and the comforts. On our way back from Halong Bay, we would be staying for another night, though.
The next morning, post breakfast, we would drive to Halong Bay. We were booked on the cruise for a night. Our junk was named Dragon Legend - an upscale boat. The booking included to and fro transfers from the hotel to the harbour. The transfer vans were quite comfortable and spacious.
Typically, it's a 5 hour journey due to traffic snarls whilst leaving the city. Mid way there's a stop at Hong Ngoc Handicraft Center that make, display and sell sculptures, paintings and things of sorts. As the name suggests, the workshop is managed by differently challenged artisans. A good place to walk around, but I found it a little expensive. Well, it's all for a cause.
At noon we were at the harbour. After completing registration formalities, we were taken by a 'transfer boat' to our junk, Dragon Legend. After a brief session of 'rules, regulation and safety' we were ushered to our well-appointed rooms - each overlooking the water. The cruise began with lunch on the upper deck.
Halong means "Bay of Descending Dragons". Prior to the 19th century this name was not recorded in any document or archive. When mentioning the present-day Quang Ninh Sea or Halong Bay, old historical books often referred to them by the names of An Bang, Luc Thuy or Van Don. Not until the late 19th century did the name of Halong Bay appear on a French Marine Map. The Hai Phong News, a French newspaper of the time, had an article, Dragon appears on Halong Bay, reporting the following story: In 1898 a sub-lieutenant named Lagredin, captaining the Avalanse reported seeing a huge sea snake on Halong Bay. This was also witnessed by many of the crew; thus emerged the European image of the Asian dragon. Whether this appearance of a strange animal looking like a dragon resulted the name of Halong Bay is not known.
In Halong Bay, there are around 1969 limestone rising from the sea. On top of each island there are massive amount of trees. There are several large caves located within the island. The biggest cave in the Bay area is a wooden cave, formerly known as the Grotte des Island. The largest islands in the Bay area are Gad Bah Island and Tuan Chau Island. There are people living permanently on these islands and are home to a few native birds and animals like chicken, antelope, wild monkeys and species of lizards.
We cruised around the limestones for entire day. We anchored in the afternoon and were taken ashore Titov Beach for stroll on the sands and a swim in the emerald green waters. There was an option to use kayaks to reach the shore. I preferred the boat though.
The next morning I ensured to witness the sunrise. Later on we went ashore to visit Sung Sot Cave, one of the many on the island. It was a comfortable climb. After a hearty brunch we were ready to pack-up and head to Hanoi. On the way back, we spent an hour to see Vietnam's famous Water Puppet show, part of the cruise package. Quite a different treat that was.
Halong Bay Image Gallery Photo viewer
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