Halong Bay

Although we had seen lots of photos of Halong Bay before this trip, we were blown away. The seascape is awe inspiring and we felt special and lucky to be there. It even made Nick want to sing like Doris Day!!

From the moment we set sail we were there, the islands were all around us. From a distance you would think you were looking at a mountain range but what it really is, is tall islands as far as you can see all the way to the horizon.

Needless to say I was totally taken aback by the view and the camera was running hot in my hands, I must have taken at least 100 shots in the first five minutes, which means lots of editing later on. I thought back to the old-day cameras that needed film and felt really satisfied with our little Samsung. It has more processing power and functions than used on the first mission to the moon (a great comparison which is so over-used regardless if it’s true or not). It even has wifi, am sure Neil Armstrong didn’t have wifi.

From Hanoi we had booked a three day two night tour of Halong Bay. Like most people visiting Vietnam we heard of the bay with many islands and which everyone says is a must. Same with Sapa, which is located in the mountains. We wanted to arrange one small trip, so we looked at the weather forecast and picked 3 days that were sunny in Halong Bay. The rest was wet, wet, wet. Sapa was all wet.

The boat was lovely, our room was nice and the en-suite had a porthole. I love portholes – they give me such a nice feeling of openness with fresh air coming through and the sea whooshing by, it’s just nice. Like in the old movies with US sailors and possibly Doris Day I want to break into song with my head sticking out of the porthole.

The Aclass legend
The Aclass legend, the front porthole on the lower deck is ours

We cruised past island after island, some as small as a large house, some as tall as a mountain but they all shared the same rocky limestone appearance. Despite the rock they had a healthy cover of tropical vegetation feeding off the water and the little soil trapped between cracks.

and more rocks...
and more rocks

We took way too many photos trying to capture the beauty of the different island formations and the changing light. None of them come close to showing how majestic a sight these island really are so if you want to know, you’ll have to visit…

Plenty of other boats around
Plenty of other boats around

We were travelling as part of a group with just over 20 people from Europe, the US, Canada and South Korea. With our fellow travellers we visited one of the larger islands for a swim and to climb to the top.

There are many tiny natural beaches but this one is man-made
There are many tiny natural beaches although this one is man-made
View from the top
View from the top

We also got off our boat for a quick tour to see the largest floating village however it seemed to be more of a showcase as most of the residents were relocated to the mainland last year to preserve the area and keep it clean. The residents that are left earn a living from fishing or tourism.

Touring the floating village
Touring the floating village
The neat little houses
The neat little houses
We did the tour by kayak
We did the tour by kayak
One of the floating shop keepers
One of the floating shop keepers

Everybody bonded during these activities and we enjoyed a few drinks on the deck before going to bed. We had chosen to stay 2 nights onboard but everybody else had only booked for one night so next morning the Legend started making its way back to shore while we were transferred to another boat that was to takes us sight seeing for the day. Our day boat was almost as big as the main one and Malene and I were the only two people on it, how lucky were we!! We had our own boat for the day, to cruise the islands, stop where we wanted and swim and kayak for as long as we felt like. The sun was out and we had a great day.

Our boat for the day
Our boat for the day
Swimming off the boat
Swimming off the boat
Kayaking through caves
Kayaking through caves…
into little lagoons
into little lagoons
Yes, I know you all think it's hard work
Yes, I know you all think it’s hard work!

Halong Bay is known for its mist and drizzle which adds a a sense of mystery but we were lucky to get plenty of clear weather too.

Misty and magical
Misty and magical

We asked our guide how the islands came to be. Are they mountain tops and how were they formed? Instead she told us the legend of ‘descending dragon’ (the meaning of Ha Long in Vietnamese) when Mother Dragon and her dragon children helped to fight off early invaders with divine fire and an invincible wall of giant emeralds that over time have turned into the small islands. Looking at this photo you can imagine how this legend started.

And when we came back to Hanoi our apartment felt a bit like home…



  1. Sandra says:

    As I was reading your blog and admiring your photos, I couldn’t help thinking of my mother who had the dream to one day discover this place… I always thought that may be it was only over hyped, but I now know that despite it all it remains one of these places that one has to discover…. Hopefully my turn will come but already I had a taste of it, thanks to you…. Just wonderful and a big thank you!

  2. Nina says:

    This is my favourite one of your posts so far. I almost feel like I am there with you – or perhaps that is just that the longing to see Halong for myself 🙂

    • Nick Yiannopoulos says:

      Hi NIna
      We are now in Yangshuo and the surrounding landscape is the same as Halong Bay just without the sea, but it has rivers . Will have these photos up this weekend. Have lost all recollection of what day of the week it is.

      • Nina says:

        I just saw those photos … now even more jealous! I might have to stop checking your blog at work ha-ha
        Love to you both


  3. Kate says:

    One of the few times I’ve enjoyed seeing the use of the word nice to describe a place. It really does look nice! Magic! xo

    • Hi Kate
      Nice! We should make use of thesaurus and come up with words like magic!! I don’t think there were any nets, just markers to show the swimming area and keep boats out.
      All the best to you all xx

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