How much will you swoon over your “bae”? How about swooning instead over Halong Bay!
You know how popcorn is a must for a movie night to feel complete, cake for birthdays to be properly celebrated and pakode to make rains a pinch, or rather a plate, dreamier? Just that way Halong Bay is the quintessential for anyone visiting Vietnam, without it your trip would not be complete and of course, it wouldn’t be as dreamy!
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Dating approximately 20 million years ago, there are about 1600 islets and islands that comprise this massive site! Within the cluster of islands there are a number of grottoes and caves that one can explore. A lot of the excitement around this place stems from that. Hopping onto kayaks and making your way through the caves is an amazing experience, one that starts off as comical because not everyone can figure out how to manage a kayak well! But eventually, as you get the hang of it you will meander through the blue waters with the mighty limestones all around you. As you enter the caves, the water gets even more brighter and bluer in the dark hollows and you have to carefully move through the cracks and the crevices dipping down below.
The name Halong Bay actually denotes “where the dragons descend into the sea”. Legend has it that with the onset of foreign invasions, the gods themselves had sent down dragons to protect the Vietnamese people. The mythical creatures carried jewels in their mouths which dropped into the ocean to not only stop the entry of the invaders but to also give the waters their majestic colours. However, the dragons are said to have never left and to have plunged within these very waters to rest. So, in case you spot a creature below while you’re splashing around, ah I’d recommend you swim faster! 😉
Now the most popular way that people tend to opt for to explore Halong Bay is a cruise from Hanoi to Halong. A number of luxury options provide people with an overnight experience. But this is probably better suited for those who love indulging in the lush life. Last Novemember as I stayed in a couple of hostels and interacted with backpackers, I realized that there is a growing preference for exploring Halong Bay from the comfort of its largest island, Cat Ba.
When we went to explore Cat Ba, we had a wooden open boat to ourselves. We spent roughly 4-6 hours there in the broad daylight, jumping and throwing each other into the water, enjoying a scrumptious Vietnamese meal onboard itself, kayaking through those caves, getting down on a secluded beach and gazing away into the stunning views that stretched as far as the sea.
Now, you might think that if the cruise offers the same experience what’s the benefit of doing this from Cat Ba? Well, the added benefit is Cat Ba itself. Of course, you’ll visit Halong Bay but not a lot of people ordinarily plan staying and exploring Cat Ba island itself. For the beach bums it has a number of cosy beaches waiting for you to kickback in their sands, take swims and sip on a chilled drink as you live that island life. They have cafes with all sorts of food from local to your much-adored European picks and in the evenings these places are lit up with a string of lights and lively music. It’s the beach vacay we all need!
And if after a whole lot of lazing, you would want to get pumped up and experience a little adventure, then Cat Ba offers that too! The Cat Ba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to 6 different ecosystems. The park offers multiple trails from short ones to long ones for the thrill seeking ones. The top of the trek offers some incredible sights as you can see green hills all around you everywhere you look.
And if that is not enough, then there’s also some rock climbing or bouldering to try. Craving a little cultural taste? You can visit a fishing village. Want to learn a little of their history? There’s a museum from the war time that you can visit. Really, Cat Ba has a little something for everyone. I for one personally adore it simply because it lets you enjoy the slow life in its prettiness, where you can rent a cycle or a scooty and zip away leaving behind your worries.
Thus, you could visit Halong Bay from a different option but then you would miss out on Cat Ba, the crown jewel within this “bae”. 😉
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