Visiting Ha Long Bay yesterday was our one foray out of Hanoi and what a great day it was! The 2.5-3 hour drive each way made for a long day, but the weather was perfect for a boat ride and the bay was beautiful. According to our guide, Vietnamese legend says that the bay and its islands were created by a momma dragon and her baby – the small islands were formed by the baby’s fire and the large by the mother’s. Or you can go with the combined impact of tectonic activity and the layering of crushed shells (and other marine creatures) – not quite as exciting but still impressive.
As part of our day trip, we stopped off at one island to visit the ‘amazing cave’; a second to go into the ‘hidden cave’ either by kayak or by boat;
and a third to climb up to a lookout (452 steps up) for a great view.
Of course, Ha Long Bay is popular so there were lots of tourists, lots and lots of tourists. We, of course, were part of that number. And lots of tourists means that there are lots of boats. Despite that, there were parts of our day when we actually saw just the bay before us, no boats, and were able to enjoy the bay’s serenity.
Sadly the bay is not clean and clear (many years of tourists, industry, and no environmental practices) but the government does appear to be working toward improving things. About a year ago all oyster farms that were in the bay were required to relocate to the shore, helping to reduce the environmental impact presumably of the farms themselves but certainly of the tourists coming to visit the farms. Hopefully this is a first step and the bay will become increasingly clear, but in the meantime look up and out and enjoy the vista.