Volunteer Abroad - Vietnam, Volunteer Abroad Programs

A Weekend Visit to Ha Long Bay

by Daniel Jun, Greenheart Travel Volunteer in Vietnam

This past weekend, I visited Ha Long Bay, one of the most famous sites in all of Southeast Asia. It is located in Northern Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven new wonders of nature. More importantly for me, it was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the city and a chance to breathe some fresh air (a constant smog envelops Hanoi and blue skies and stars at night are rare).

My friend and I booked a boat tour for 2 days and 1 night through a travel agency for a little less than $100. (I learned, after my trip, that tours can actually be booked for $50 for similar travel packages.) We left the volunteer guest house early Saturday morning at 7am for the Old Quarter, the city center, to catch the bus for Ha Long Bay. Along with 8 other foreigners, we rode for 4, rather bumpy, hours to our destination. Then, we hopped on a small boat to ride out to our cruise boat, the Ha Long Dolphin, to begin our awesome trip.

Ha Long Bay

The Ha Long Bay harbor. Interesting fact: The cruise boats used to be different colors, such as red, blue and white. Just in the past few years, however, the government made all the boats be painted white for uniformity.

As the Ha Long Dolphin drifted into the gulf, the first thing that I noticed was the peaceful silence. There were no buzzing of crowds or constant honking from motorbikes, taxis, and buses. There were no buildings, traffic, or smog, but just the calm, open waters with no disturbances. The weather was pretty cloudy and overcast, but this just added to the mystique of the bay. The fog shrouded and muffled everything and the visibility was limited so that only the outlines of distant figures were visible.

The Ha Long Dolphin cruise boat

Our cruise boat, the Ha Long Dolphin. With an islet in the back.

And then we saw the islets. As the boat got closer, the large structures that irregularly protruded from the smooth waters towered over us like rock and green giants. At first, only one or two were visible, but then many islets came into view.

Islets of Ha Long Bay

Distant islets shrouded in fog.

As the boat slipped between them, I was struck in awe by their sheer size and intimidating presence. Their sides near the bottom were rock worn smooth by the water, but higher up they were covered with trees and foliage. They reminded me of the Hallelujah Mountains in the Avatar movie. My pictures do not do justice to their immensity.

Floating fishing village.

Floating fishing village.

Close up of a floating house.

Close up of a floating house.

In the rest of the trip, I saw a fishing village that consisted entirely of little houses built on floating docks. Sellers, with their individual boats full of goods, were seen paddling among the cruise boats selling items. I had a chance to go kayaking around the islets and toured a large cave known as the Surprising Cave (which was named as so because of a giant rock structure in the cave that closely resembled a penis). In the morning of the next day, I climbed about 400 steps to the top of an islet for a 360o view of the bay. Overall, the weekend trip was amazing and was a much needed break from Hanoi.

Sellers in their boat.

Sellers in their boat.

Close up of a seller and her goods.

Close up of a seller and her goods.

Picture from kayaking.

Picture from kayaking.

Inside the Surprising Cave.

Inside the Surprising Cave.

The islet that we climbed to the top.

The islet that we climbed to the top.

View of Ha Long Bay from the top of the islet.

View of Ha Long Bay from the top of the islet.

Fancy red boat. “Oh, you fancy, huh?”

Fancy red boat. “Oh, you fancy, huh?”

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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  1. Pingback: A Weekend Visit to Ha Long Bay | skypream.org - March 31, 2013

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