|Ha Long Bay Panorama View|
How to get there?
|Cat Bi International Airport @ Hai Phong|
There is a 2 hour direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Cat Bi international airport in Hai Phong. I heard there are three daily flights to Ho Chi Minh City. Then another 1-1/2 to 2 hours driving from Hai Phong to Ha Long.
In 2009, the New 7 Wonders Foundation, which runs the New Seven Wonders of the World program, included Ha Long Bay on its list of nominations as one the World's 7 Natural Wonders. Check this link http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/672
As we sailed through the bay, lunch buffet was served. It was mix eastern and western food. With such a beautiful view, lunch tasted even better. Perhaps it was one of the most memorable lunches I ever had. I could not miss to have cappuccino afterward. I sat in a table outside, sipped my cappuccino, looked at the beautiful view of the bay, felt the warm sun and breeze in my skin, day dreamed and wondered for next magnificent view. Meanwhile my loved one was busy with his cappuccino and camera. Still he looked and smiled at me once in a while to make sure that I was happy, that we were both happy.
Not so long after we started sailing, I saw some limestone isles. It is the front part of Ha Long Bay, I guess? I was so excited to reveal the magical and mysterious Ha Long Bay.
My mind was wondering around…. How many of these limestone isles here in this bay. The new world encyclopedia says some 1600 limestone islands and islets, covered by jungle vegetation, populate Ha Long bay. This reminds me of Pulau Seribu in northern part of Jakarta, Indonesia. Pulau Seribu means a "Thousand Island" consisting of less almost 128 small islands but still they are called as thousand. It is located in the Bay of Jakarta in the Java Sea. Most of these are inhabited and can be reached in about 1-2 hours from Marina Ancol by boat. However, they are regular coral islands (not the limestone).
|Cua Van Floating Fishing Village|
Cua Van Floating Fishing Village
|Cua Van is the largest fishing village in Ha Long Bay|
Cua Van is the largest fishing villages in Ha Long Bay among others Ba Hang, Vong Vieng and Cap La. http://www.nea.gov.vn/en/EnvirStatus/C-CEnvironment/Pages/CuaVan-VanGiaFishingvillage.aspx
Rowing around the village, we could see the daily life of the local fishermen. Two girls were playing in the local rowing boat in the middle of the bay. One of them could row the boat using her legs! Amazing!
Then we moved to another area of the bay, not so far from the Pearl Farm, where the boat was anchored until the next morning.
|Dawn @ Ha Long Bay|
The day started by practicing Tai Chi on the sundeck while we were surrounded by other 26 cruise boats in the Bay! We followed the movements of the Tai Chi instructor. Some of the motions reminded of the other holistic healing i.e. meditation. Of course they are both holistic healing. My meditation guru explained some theory that reminded me of these Tai Chi motions: holding our hands in front of the heart, neck and head are to open the Chakra in those areas.
|Gowes @ Cat Ba Island|
We arrived at Viet Hai jetty and took bicycle trip to the untouched forests and wildlife. Other than bicycle, motorbike is an option. As soon as we started our ride, the rain dropped heavily, as if Someone listened to our complaint that it was too sunny and humid, ooopss…. We were wet of the rain and sweat. Riding bicycle up and down the island was a bit of a challenge. Especially with the rain, it is slippery when the road goes down.
|In the Jungle|
In the rain, we still could see the village scenery: small shops selling local ice cream, loud music in one of the houses, some cows in the rice field. Then we stopped at a small kampong and the rain stopped too. After resting for a short while, everyone in the group could not wait for the jungle trek - trekking in the Cat Ba National Forest. We first saw a big spider. After having kept on walking, we arrived at a dark cave. When we were inside the cave, everyone was told that it is a bat cave! Lucky or unlucky, nobody saw any bat. The cave was found in 1966. In fact some people used to live in it during the war.
Going back to our boat, it was sunny again and our clothes went dry quickly. Lunch was served at the boat. It was Vietnamese cuisine with Tumis Kangkung (morning glory cooked with garlic), Fresh Salad (for me it is similar to Thai mango salad but it is without mango), Fish and Shrimp curry, and fresh fruits.
After lunch, we continued the cruise to the Dark Cave and Light Cave areas. Here we could do kayaking and swimming. When kayaking, we passed the biggest cave in that area. We could pass underneath it and there we were at the other side of the bay. It was very quiet except the cicadas sound. Water is warm and calm without too much wave. Passing other kayakers, we waved hands and smiled, as sign that all enjoyed that moment.
After everyone returned from the kayaking, we sailed back to the mother cruise ship to rest before dinner. We met other guests who just joined the cruise that day. Everyone seemed to enjoy all of the activities. It is amazing that they are willing to travel from all around the world to visit Ha Long Bay. They came from Munich, Dubai, Sydney and Kuala Lumpur.
|One evening in Ha Long Bay|
Later in that evening, there were more lightning. Rain fell heavily in the middle of the night. Our boat was swinging left and right following the small waves.
|Surprise Cave is located at Ho Hon Island|
This Cave is located on Bo Hòn Island and was discovered in 1901 by the French, named in 1938 by the French (Cave of Surprises) and welcomed its first visitors in 1993. Bo Hòn Island is one of the 1,969 limestone monolithic islands that are topped with thick jungle vegetation.
|Can you see the cave entrance? It's that hole right in the center|
I could see the location of the grotto from the boat. The entrance is high above the bay. No doubt, everyone had to climb the steps up to get there. Climbing up to the cave, there are some viewing platforms where we can look at the beautiful panorama.
|View from the viewing platform at Bo Hon Island - while climbing to the Surprise Cave|
The cave has two chambers. The outer chamber is square and is often referred to as the waiting room. The cave's ceiling is approximately 30 m high. The walls generate a variety of colors that blend with the setting of the area. The path to the inner chamber is approximately 3m wide. The inner chamber is known as the serene castle.
There is a side entrance which is approximately 6m in height. The light reflected from the moving water outside causes the formations inside the chamber to seemingly come alive. According to the locals, this was the reason the cave was named Sung Sot, from the awe-stricken reaction of the visitors to the cave. Inside, it is partitioned into two chambers; the first one being similar to a wide theatre hall. Many stalactites hang from the high ceiling, with numerous possible forms and shapes.
Link on Surprise Cave and its legend: http://www.vietnamculturetravel.com/vietnam-attraction/view/surprise-cave.html
Interesting link on Surprise Cave is in this link: http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=9c1e483e-a4c1-4c73-973c-f715c2d4a325
Even though this trip has not allowed me to reveal the magical and mysterious legends on Ha Long Bay, at least now I can respond to people (who default asking me questions about Ha Long Bay every time I say that I live in Vietnam) that YES I have been to Ha Long Bay and I fall in love with it. Who doesn’t?