Halong Bay; “Where the dragon descends into the sea”

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It’s a hard job waking up to views like this, but somebody has to do it.

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Today we’re exploring beautiful Halong Bay, a World Heritage site since 1994. This is a place of mystical beauty has more than 2,000 islands that rise dramatically from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

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Halong Bay legend

According to Vietnamese legend, Halong was created by a giant dragon which stormed down from the mountains into the bay. The dragon’s flailing tail gorged out valleys and as it plunged into the sea, these crevasses filled with water leaving only the pinnacles visible. ‘Halong’ literally translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’.

The guidebooks wax lyrical about Halong Bay, calling it ‘pure art’ and ‘priceless sculptures hewn from nature’. And we were delighted to find that it lived up to the hype.

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Junk boat cruise

To see Halong Bay at it’s best, you really have to get out onto the water (the port is a pretty dreary town and only a few of the islands can be seen from here.) Like most visitors we opted for a two day, one night cruise through the bay aboard a junk boat.

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This is where a bit of research goes a long way. We’ve met a few tourists who didn’t enjoy their Halong boat experience very much, feeling like they were in a flotilla of tourist boats being herded like a pack of sheep around the bay.

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Fortunately we were aboard the luxury Victory Star which travelled a long way apart from other boats allowing us to enjoy unspoiled, magical views.

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Our cabin was very comfortable…

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…with a nice little balcony.

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The crew were excellent, led by the very affable Duong.

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Vung Vieng

In the afternoon we decamped into small rowing boats to visit the floating village of Vung Vieng. There are several villages like this in Halong, but this is one of the least visited. The boats kept a respectful distance from the colourful houses and the families who live there.

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A very lovely way to spend a day in Vietnam.

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And we rounded off the trip with Halong Bay cocktails! Bliss.


Join tour leader Richard Pearce on our Highlights of Vietnam small group tour and float serenely on a junk boat past this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site.ย 

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