I believe local people used to say the rocks rearing up off the coast of Halong were dragons and it certainly looks like giant fire breathing animals have been carved out of limestone ducking and diving in this natural hotspot in Vietnam. Previous research via the internet led me to book a cruise with Indochina Junks and The Grey Traveller chose a junk with 4 cabins.
You can organise collection from Hanoi and for $20 more, travel is in a luxury van so with wifi and water and a comfort stop on the way Halong limestone karsts soon loomed.
I rocked up at the wharf in Halong City at the same time as torrential rain and a welcome party of umbrellas and escorted through the puddles to a seat on the verandah. Rain made the bay look somewhat grey and gloomy. However the Vietnamese smiles and service made up for a little water. Tony introduced himself as our guide for the three day slash two night jaunt and he led our party with yet more umbrellas to a small boat which ferried us to our home for the next two nights.
Welcome drinks and a wet meet and greet from all the staff and we were cruising Vietnamese style. The staff very nearly out numbered the cruisers with 7 in all…….and oh how well they looked after us.
To be fair there isn’t much room to swing a catfish on a junk but you don’t need space as you should be on deck enjoying the bay.
The staff were patient with our questions and we got to understand a little about Vietnamese life and soon picked up on their pride and love for these limestone cliffs in the Gulf of Tonkin.
The first afternoon was spent kayaking and I had to pinch myself a couple of times when he who likes to think he is obeyed was drilling me in kayaking technique. Pinch myself because it was just us cruisers out in the bay, the water was still, the cliffs reared up majestically and we had time to get up close and personal with this special area.
Day two saw us exploring a floating village and a pearl farm. The floating village community operate their lives on just a few yards of wooden platform. Kids row to school, adults meet friends, share fishing stories and greet visitors. I loved it.
I didn’t see any dragons but I did see one of the best natural wonders of the world.