Halong Bay: Where the dragon descends into the sea

Legend has it that the mystical islands of Halong Bay were actually formed by a great dragon from the mountains. The ancient story says that when Vietnam was newly formed, its people had to fight fierce invaders from the North through the sea. The Jade Emperor felt sorry for the country and sent Mother Dragon and her children descending into the sea to defend them. The dragons helped to defeat their enemies with divine fire and giant emeralds (now the famous islands of Halong) that formed an invincible defensive wall. Thousands of years later, we now have one of the most beautiful bays in the world.

Halong Bay

Whether you believe the legend is true or not, no one can deny that Halong Bay is a remarkable place. Awe-inspiring. Breathtaking. Magical. None of these words can really describe the image implanted in my mind of countless limestone pinnacles jutting out of the sea. It was instantly clear why this beautiful place was selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Halong Bay

My time in Halong Bay was short and sweet. At the Bay Chay wharf I boarded a junk boat at noon on Canada Day just in time to avoid a torrential downpour. Initially worried that the rain would ruin the scenery, I was quickly distracted by the enormous seafood lunch provided on board. With the weather quickly forgotten, I devoured course after course of squid, crab, shrimp, fish, and more dishes than I could handle. After I was thoroughly stuffed I realized that the rain had subsided and the sun was even breaking through the clouds (cue squinty eyes). We cruised the bay and visited a small floating village where I was able to capture some of my favourite images of the trip.

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Our final stop before heading back was the famous Thien Cung Grotto. The cave rises 20m above sea level and covers over 3000 square meters. Inside the cave you could wander up many levels where multi-coloured lights are projected onto the walls to illuminate the varied stalagmites and stalactites. That definitely conjured up some precious Geography 12 memories from high school.

Thien Cung GrottoIMG_1161

Although everything about Halong Bay was impressive, it wasn’t the highlight of my trip. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe it seemed too obvious or possibly the overt tourism has diminished the wonder. I suppose that sometimes it is the simple and surprising that makes the biggest impact in the end. No matter, it was lovely, and I am grateful to have seen it for myself.

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Departure Lounge: Vietnam Itinerary

Departure Lounge: Vietnam Itinerary

It’s time to get back in the saddle again! Or perhaps more appropriately, the back pack straps! I am a mere 3 days away from my inaugural trip to Southeast Asia (aka backpacker paradise!) and my first solo trip. I am both excited and nervous about spending two weeks in my own company, but I’m trusting Adventurous Kate’s promise that solo travellers are never alone!

Some of you may be curious about my travel itinerary for this trip so I thought I would include a brief synopsis of my plans.

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Itinerary

June 21-22:Vancouver, Canada to Guangzhou, China (next day arrival and overnight)

June 23: Guangzhou, China to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

June 24: Ho Chi Minh City

June 25-26: Nha Trang

June 27-28: Hoi An

June 29-30: Hue

July 1: Halong Bay / Bai Chay

July 2-3: Hanoi

July 4: Hanoi, Vietnam to Vancouver, BC (via Guangzhou, China)

I have some idea of what I want to do in these cities but I’m mostly looking forward to seeing what each day brings. That being said, these are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • The infamous Nha Trang Boat Trip (aka booze cruise). Apparently, it’s the most fun you’ll have in Southeast Asia!
  • Getting custom-made clothing in Hoi An.
  • Touring the caves and waters of Halong Bay.
  • Eating as much PHO (pronounced fa) as possible… and learning the basics of Vietnamese cuisine.

I am hoping to post updates as I travel but that will mostly depend on my Internet access. Get ready for more fun updates to come!