The staggering beauty of Halong Bay is tough to resist – the looming limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops rising from emerald green waters provide ethereal postcard views that one could hardly find elsewhere. It is northern Vietnam’s top tourism hub, thanks to the vast collection of islands with populous fishing villages, mysterious caves and grottos. The emergence of the 1,600 limestone stacks of Halong Bay has contributed to the natural beauty that is this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The massive influx of visitors to Halong Bay is evident from the congested Gulf of Tonkin – often crowded with sailing boats, overnight cruise ships and hundreds of the country’s famous longboats. Visitors normally start their journey from Hanoi, a 4-hour journey by land to the Tuan Chau Wharf where boats and ships await boarding passengers. Once onboard, visitors can check-in to their respective rooms for a retreat of rest and relaxation as the ship begins to sail away from the wharf. Often, meals are served in the form of fine-dining; where delicious Halong Bay cuisine are in store for the visitors. These meals are reflective of the influence of neighbouring China and Laos, alongside local and indigenous ingredients which are truly special here.
As the ship drops its anchor at the famous Cat Ba Island, alight from the ship to discover the myriad of activities that you can do on the island. It is one of Halong Bay’s largest islands and home to some of the area’s most treasured landscapes. Due to the brisk surge in tourism in tourism in the past few years, the central portion of the town on the island is fairly new. However, the rest of the island remains unchartered, wild and rugged. Located within the national park in the island is the multi-chambered Trung Trang Cave. Marvel at the numerous sights of stalactites that take on various shapes and sizes, some bearing much resemblance to humans and animals.
What better way to explore the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay than kayaking? Paddle through islets and under hidden caves before exploring lagoons and unspoiled beaches. The paddling perspective can unveil the inner beauty that is Halong Bay. The classic Halong Bay skyline serves as the backdrop as you continue paddling past limestone pillars, fishing boats and village homes balanced on pontoons. This perfect combination of kayaking and sailing is an ideal water marriage, especially when sailing alone you may skip from one location to another without fully immersing yourself in the charm of Halong Bay. Kayaking allows for exploration of the bay’s intricacies as you paddle far from the madding crowds.
For the best views of Halong Bay, hike the many steps to the lookout point on Ti Top Island. While many beautiful photographs of Halong Bay are taken from the waters, the peak of Ti Top Island offers a different viewpoint altogether. At the summit, you will find a wooden viewing platform from where you can take in panoramic views of the bay. After the steep climb up and then descending to the foot, you can relax at the island’s small crescent beach as the sun sets reluctantly signifying the day is coming to an end.
As you head back to your ship after a long day, nothing beats resting while overlooking the vast, calm sea around you. Though darkness consumes the famous landscape, you feel a sense of tranquility for being at complete ease with nature. Being away from the hustle and bustle of the city brings about the sense of togetherness as you are away from distraction, so do indulge in intellectual and meaningful conversation with your loved ones in this perfect setting. The extraordinary landscape of Halong Bay no doubt creates a baffling realm of natural beauty in the area!