After spending a couple of days in the crowded and lively city of Hanoi (definitely my favourite Southeast Asian City so far), I decided to go on one of the many day trips that Hanoi Backpackers had to offer.
Carefully considering all the different day trips, I finally decided on going to Ha Long Bay and spend one night on a boat between thousands of rock cliff islands. Early the next morning I left the backpackers and arrived in Ha Long City about 3 hours later. Ha Long City is in the Northeastern part of Vietnam, just a few hours away from the Chinese border.
I prefer going on day trips offered by a backpackers because the people that end up going with you are usually like-minded young travelers looking for a good time. When you book day trips at a travel agent you are likely to end up on a boat in the South China Sea with a couple of 60-year olds insisting on wearing their one-piece swimsuits and Spedo’s all day long. Luckily no one on my trip to Ha Long wore Spedo’s. We were about 16 people, mostly Brits, a couple of Americans and also some French people.
A small boat took us from the harbour to the sleeperboat on which we would spend the night. A beautiful Vietnamese lunch was waiting for us as we boarded and it served as a great icebreaker for each of the fellow travelers to get to know each other. After lunch the boat set sail to the beautiful cliffs of Ha Long bay (“Ha Long” means descending Dragon).
At first I thought there are only a couple of cliff islands around, but the deeper we went into the bay more and more islands popped up on the horizon. There were thousands and thousands of towering cliffs scattered throughout the bay. Each cliff was covered in lush jungle-like plants and it was just absolutely surreal.
We sailed for about an hour between all the cliffs towards a floating village, here we stopped and were offered the chance to go explore the surrounding cliff islands on a kayak. After the kayaking expedition we went to Hang Đầu Gỗ cave. This cave is the largest in the Ha Long area and even has graffiti of 19th century French travelers inside. We spent an hour or two exploring the cave and ended the day off with a swim at a beautiful small sandy beach while watching the sunset.Back on board we had a quick cooking lesson (by a Vietnamese guy with a Canadian accent) on how to make Spring Rolls, which was followed by an amazing dinner.
After this the karaoke started…I must say, singing “Billy Jean” at the top of my voice on a boat in Vietnam was definitely an experience I would never forget. I met so many awesome people on this trip. It is weird how booze and a karaoke machine can make random people feel like very close friends.
Ha Long Bay is a must-see if you are heading to Vietnam. It is not hard to understand why it is a UNESCO World Heritage sight and also voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.