Ha Long Bay is northern Vietnam’s most popular tourist attraction and it’s an entirely natural one at that, which to me makes it seem even more special.
Think imposing limestone pillars coming straight from the bed of the beautiful blue/green water with tiny inlets and passageways visible to the eye, plus massive caves and islands hidden in amongst it all. It’s also a World Heritage site and it’s very clear why that is.
There are tonnes of boat tours that you can book onto, some just a day trip (which we did) and some for anything up to a 3 night stay on the boat. As I don’t love boats (or any method of transport haha) Nathan and I opted for the full day trip.
We were collected nice and early from our hotel and had the friendliest tour guide and a lovely Filipino family as company. When we arrived at the harbour, we visited a pearl museum where we learnt a little about the history of pearls and how local fisherman have earned money for generations, which was an unexpected addition that actually turned out to be pretty interesting.
Once we got onto the boat, we met the rest of the group (about 25 people) and were given a very tasty big buffet lunch full of lots of seafood and some Vietnamese classics such as morning glory.
We then finally set sail for the main attraction, Ha Long Bay itself.
Ha Long Bay is often very misty but we had a beautiful, clear day and the water was so calm and pleasant compared to the 1 million rocky boat trips that we’d taken in Thailand.
Hopefully the pictures speak for themselves here as it’s difficult to put into words how cool it is sailing through this incredible landscape. I’d never seen anything like it before and I was so enamoured that I completely forgot that I’m meant to be terrified of boats, which is really saying something.
After a while we stopped in one of the bays and disembarked onto smaller individual rowing boats and canoes to explore the landscape a bit closer up.
We had the funniest Vietnamese woman rowing us. She didn’t speak a word of English but she sang the whole time and kept deliberately pushing other boats away with her oar.
We also stopped at an island which had an absolutely insane cave on it.
It was the biggest cave I’ve ever seen and I had no idea that rock formations could be so fascinating but it really was!
The view from the island where the cave was was also absolutely breathtaking.
As we set sail back in the direction of the harbour, we passed the ‘fighting cocks’, one of the most iconic symbols of Ha Long Bay – so popular that it features on some of the Vietnamese currency.
We then enjoyed a leisurely sail back to the harbour as the sun set in the background and shone on the water, highlighting the limestone perfectly.
It was one of the most unique and fascinating places I’ve ever visited and a complete must see for anyone travelling to this part of the world.
If I had to sum it up in three words I’d say that it was ethereal, magical and unique.