We have enjoyed out time in Vietnam. Enjoyed it a lot. We wanted to finish our time in this wonderful country with something fitting. Thankfully we still had time to visit one of, if not the tourist destination in Vietnam.
There are a number of long day trip options from Hanoi to see the famous limestone islands of Halong Bay, but we wanted to make sure we got a chance to see the place with a little more time. So with memories of an amazing 3 day cruise around the Whitsunday Islands in Australia still strong, we embarked the Indochina Sails Junk and set sail out into the bay.
Northern Vietnam (as Hanoi demonstrated) does not share the fantastic climate of the central and southern parts and we were slightly nervous about the weather. Other travellers we recently spoke to had cold rainy conditions for their trips or even worse cancelled altogether due to the weather.
Our trip didn’t produce the clear blue skies of the postcards, but the grey skies helped produce an ethereal mist that partly shrouded the thousands of islets in magical fashion. On occasions the clouds were even punctured by the sight of the sun and it was always warm enough to relax on the sun deck.
You realise how popular the place is when you see the armada of boats that leave the dock in Halong City, but massive credit to the team aboard our boat we managed to almost totally avoid the crowds for the rest of the trip as they selected quiet locations for our stops offs to kayak and swim in ridiculously cold but remarkably flat waters.
The only sad aspect of the whole treat was the amount of flotsam and jetsam visible at times, which given it is another UNESCO World Heritage site is even more surprising as we would have expected them to insist on some clean-up processes to be in place. The source of the plastic bottles, polystyrene and packaging is not from the tourists, but instead from the local people that live on floating islands around the bay and make their living from fishing and pearl farms.
By the time we are heading back to port at the end of the third day you still find the view from the top deck of the boat absolutely captivating and deserving of its place in the modern Natural Wonders of the World.