Halong Bay is a must see when visiting Vietnam. Located 170 km east of Hanoi the bay is famous for its scenic rock formations. “Ha long” literally translates into “Bay of Descending Dragons.” There are a ton of tourist companies that sell trips to the Bay (read: tourist trap and scams a plenty so do your research). I lucked out and bought a ticket with a travel company run by Australians that gear the tour towards young people who speak English (hooray!)
We spent about 3 hours driving outside of Hanoi and passed by what seemed like miles and miles of endless factories. “This is where all of our shit is made,” I thought. We drove past a Canon factory that literally went on for as far as the eye could see.
Once at the port there were hundreds of Vietnamese people trying to lure us from our group to join their tour. The docks were teaming with Chinese Junks which was sort of romantic in a diesel engine sort of way. Once on board we sailed through hundreds of beautiful limestone islands and then parked our Junk in a cute little deserted inlet. We then teamed up in pairs and hopped into kayak’s and spent the next two hours paddling through the Halong Bay National Park. My arms felt like noodles and me and my buddy were always trailing at the end of the line. We paddled into caves, under limestone canopies and between tight limestone cliffs. Once back at the Junk I moaned as my arms could barely pull me up the knotted pirate ladder. All of the crazy Aussie’s on board decided to jump off the Junk into frigid cold water. I encouraged the manic behavior so I could get a few good snapshots. I was well humored by the local Vietnamese who take little paddle boats out to the Junk’s to sell tourists cheap alcohol, Oreo’s, Pringle’s and Snickers chocolate bars.
That evening we ate a delicious feast and danced all night on the top deck. The sun set beautifully over the horizon and once pitch black had fallen upon us we could see a few other glowing Junk’s across the bay as the stars started to twinkle above us. I was alarmed at how insanely comfortable and nice our accommodations were. I was expecting to sleep on a disheveled and warped cot but was pleased to hop into a comfy mattress and duvet cover. I fell asleep instantly as the boat rocked back and forth. In the morning I was the first one up and sat on the top deck leaning against a banister watching the morning mist rise over the water and carry the fog over the surrounding limestone silhouette.