Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay was our catalyst for visiting Vietnam. Even the best photos don’t capture the experience of slowly moving on water through clusters of land formations. There are several options for experiencing a cruise, it seems that most people choose to stay one night on Chinese junk-inspired type of boat and one night on Cat Ba Island or elsewhere on land at one of the mega resorts. There is quite of variety of boats to choose from, you can go 5-star with 50 of your closest friends or for something a little more intimate with a handful of people. The only unfortunate aspect of the journey was being shuffled in and out of sites and activities. The guides were pros in making sure it all worked. In the end, there was no getting away from feeling like a mega tourist. 

I’m allergic to cruise ships, but made an exception here. I associate cruises with downtime and buffets. The trick at Halong Bay is to sit on the top deck and take it all in…cold and all. 

The sails are all show said our guide. I was sold on them. Our vessel didn’t have any.  

Who doesn’t like a Chili Willie trash can. 

Tip Top island is the popular stop. You are taken to shore and given 40-minutes to climb “1000 stairs” to take your money shot. 

You are treated to a 360-view.

My money shot. 

You can spend part of your 40-minutes on the beach.

Kayaking is another activity. We enjoyed our stint in the water; at least we didn’t tip over. 

Some islands had monkeys. 

Many inhabitants in the villages have never lived on land. 

Camping out for the night. The moving ending around 6 pm followed by dinner, think nine different sample plates of seafood coming your way. Not quite a buffet and definitely very satisfying portions. After dinner you are talked into squid fishing-not exotic as it sound-basically you're dropping a line with a hook and pulling it up, like snagging. I think it was a diversion to keep us occupied. 

There is even a school for the children of the floating village. 
A day tour boat.

Oyster harvesting is another industry on the bay. 

 One of the several caves in the area. It was quite extensive. It felt like another world. 
Man, how come our boat didn't have a dragon or sail! 

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