With the sun shining, Halong Bay east of Hanoi in Northern Vietnam can be an explosion of green, blue and gold. When we came there however, the monsoon was there too, and the flat light created by the heavy skies turned most of the impressive sea sculptures into shadowlike shades of grey and black. But nevertheless, it was still very much impressive!
Halong Bay – there is magic in the word. According to the legend there once was a mountain dragon submerging into the sea, leaving several thousands of ragged little hills sticking out of the water. Another legend talks about the pearls the dragon had spread out over the water. James Bond was here once to save the world. However, only the landscape shots were taken here. James and the villain and their stuntmen only made it to Thailand.
Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage natural site – and rightly so! The karst limestone rocks and little islands (hardly any are populated) create an extraordinary sea landscape: little hills of any shape with holes and arches and caves. UNESCO has counted something like 1600 islands, guidebooks will mention close to 2000, and our guide on the boat told us there are exactly 1969 islands. It is easy to remember, he said, because the number is the same as in the year Ho Chi Minh died!
The magic of Halong Bay is widely known. Every day thousands of tourists are coming here (most of them, like us, on a tour bus from Hanoi), some only for a day trip, most at least for one night. We heard that there are close to 500 tourist boats cruising the bay, most of them close to Halong City. Our boat cruised a bit more east, but we were very seldom alone. But the bay is in no way crowed.
We were on our boat for 24 hours, enjoying every hour, watching this magic landscape passing by slowly.
We were on a Swan boat and can recommend that company: swancruiseshalong.com