HaLong Bay is what drew us to Vietnam. There are no words to describe this vast expanse of jade green waters and over 1600 limestone cliffs. It was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1994 and in Patricia Schultz's acclaimed 1000 Places To See Before You Die.
HaLong Bay is about 170 kms east of Hanoi (roughly a 2.5 hour drive). We booked a day trip through one of the many Sinh Cafes in Hanoi. The package costs only $18 and includes transportation to HaLong Bay, cruise, lunch on the boat, and a visit to 2 caves. You may opt for an overnight (which I wish we had time for) or a 2N/3D tour package.
The van picked us up in the hotel around 8:30 am, and along with some other travellers we headed east. Once there, we boarded one of the junks that would take us on this most memorable journey. Lunch was served on board, and consisted of vegetables, spring rolls, fish, rice and fresh fruit.
With us were a couple of Australian ladies, a French man, Ethan from New York, and 2 Korean girls. We lazed around on the sun deck, enjoying the breeze and the breathtaking scenery, as we passed more islands, fishing villages and secluded coves. Ethan and the Australian ladies jumped in for a refreshing dip in the cool waters before we made our way to Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace) Cave.
The vast Thien Cung grotto is a vision of color and beauty, like nature's art gallery. The stalactite formations on the walls and hanging from the cave's ceiling are a vision to behold. A lot of the formations remind me of jelly fish.
According to legend, it was in this grotto that the Dragon Prince married May, the lady who caught his eye. Their wedding was celebrated for seven days and seven nights.
Near the exit of the cave, a natural spring fountain gushes water all year round.