Dragons, fairies and secret lagoons and mysterious caves … all in a days kayaking in Ha Long Bay.
Halong Bay in Vietnam's Gulf of Tonkin is truly magical. It has more than 3000 limestone islands of varying sizes rising from its emerald waters and is one of the country's natural marvels. Legend says it was all created by a great dragon who lived in the mountains.
The dragon may be legend, but sailors in Halong Bay have reported sightings of an enormous sea creature known as the tarasque.
Visitors go there to explore the countless caves and grottoes. It's easy to understand why generations of Vietnamese artists and poets have been inspired here. They see shapes of gods, fairies and monks in the rock formations.
The bay is a fairly easy daytrip from Hanoi, but it is well worth staying afloat for a couple of days. There are boats with cabins with private shower and toilet, communal eating and leisure deck and a sunning deck on top. Sunrise and sunset are truly beautiful times to soak up the peace and solitude of the bay, particularly after busy tourist and shopping activities in Hanoi.
Meals are cooked on board and fresh seafood is dominant, as is fresh fruit.
Kayaks are provided for exploring the many hidden lagoons and caves which are impossible to access by other means. Some little beaches have a prayer temple where offerings are left.
People who live on the bay survive by fishing. There is a floating village in the middle of nowhere, complete with a stilt schoolhouse.
Locals often paddle up to sell goods to tourists. They are friendly, smiling hawkers, rather than aggressive.
Over the years, coral, shells, stalactites and stalagmites have been stripped from the bottom of the bay and caves and sold as souvenirs. This is now an illegal practice and we suggest that if you are offered such items, you refuse to purchase them.
Some people say that to go to Vietnam and not visit Halong Bay is to not visit Vietnam at all.
Four hours from Hanoi in Vietnam
Qantas flies daily to Singapore, with Vietnam Airlines connections to Hanoi. Fares are $1800 from Perth, $2116 from Darwin, $2117 from Brisbane, $2118 from Melbourne, $2125 from Adelaide and $2134 from Sydney. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing, but may vary at time of booking.
World Expeditions three-day Halong Bay kayaking journey costs $590 per person. Five days costs $980. Both start in Hanoi and include bilingual tour leader, additional local crew support, accommodation in twin share cabins with private facilities, all meals, kayaks and life jackets, transfers by private coach, all entrance fees and permits. They depart daily with a minimum of two people.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.
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