The next stop on my journey through Asia with my mom was Ha Long Bay—a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s roughly 135 miles from Hanoi. Ha Long Bay is a world renowned geological area, featuring thousands of limestone karsts and isles. As you can see from some of my pictures below, it is quite remarkable.
Most people who visit Hanoi will choose to go to Ha Long Bay just for a day cruise. My mom and I, however, were lucky enough to spend two nights sailing through Ha Long Bay on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat. We stayed on a one-cabin boat, so it was just the two of us with about five crew members and our tour guide waiting on us hand and foot (which was a bit strange at times). Two nights seemed like the perfect amount of time to explore most of what the bay has to offer. Any longer would have been too much, though, as you are in pretty cramped quarters.
One of my favorites parts of the Ha Long Bay trip was getting the chance to kayak around the different karsts/isles. I love to kayak and it was amazing to experience it in such a beautiful setting. The waters were also extremely calm making it even more relaxing. During one of our kayaking adventures, we happened to come across a couple of families that live on boats in Ha Long Bay. Since we had our tour guide with us to translate, we decided to stop for a little bit to talk with them. It was interesting to hear about their lifestyle in the bay. I could never imagine living on a tiny boat with my entire family every single day—I think we would probably end up killing each other 😛 The local families were amazed by how white my skin was and my red hair. One of the men even asked if I would consider marrying him, so I just told him I would think about it, haha.
Another highlight of the Ha Long Bay tour was all the amazing food we were served on board. I am not the biggest seafood fan, but I LOVED all the food they prepared for us. We had delicious fish, crab, giant shrimp, fruit, chicken, and so much more. On the last night of the tour, the chef specially prepared some artsy foods for us, as you can see below.
Something that was a little disheartening about Ha Long Bay, however, was all the garbage that we saw floating around in it. You would think for a UNESCO World Heritage Site that the Vietnamese government would try harder to keep it clean. We asked our tour guide about this and he said it is something they have been struggling with for years. The government has actually had to relocate several floating villages in Ha Long Bay due to the amount of pollution/garbage they create. Our tour guide said they’re still working on better solutions to solve the problem.
Finally, one of the most exciting parts of the tour was when I caught a squid. My mom and I had read about “evening squid fishing with the crew” in our itinerary but weren’t sure if it was something we would actually do. We asked our tour guide about it and he said we could give it a try, but it is mainly just for show and that no one ever catches anything. My mom and I figured why not, we could at least get some funny photos out of it. But, long behold, after just five minutes of moving our rods up and down in the water I felt a tug on my line—a squid! It was so exciting to pull it up. Luckily one of the crew members was with us to remove it—I definitely wasn’t about to touch it…The next day, the chef fried it up for us as part of our lunch. It was cool to think how I had somewhat played a role in our lunch for the afternoon.
After disembarking our boat, we were off to the airport for the next leg of our journey…stay tuned 😉