The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is an organization that identifies, protects and preserves cultural and natural heritage around the world that is considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. Ha Long was included on this list in 1994 and as we floated through the nearly 3996 limestone islands that dot the bay… it was easy to see why – amazing a place like this exists.
In Vietnamese Ha means descending and Long means dragon and the limestone islands do look like a dragon’s back and tail in the bay.
We had selected a small tour company in Hanoi to make the arrangements to spend one evening aboard a Chinese style junk boat and we can not begin to express the serenity of sitting on the deck and watching these amazing limestone islands just float past us.
Our cooking instructor had suggested Buffalo Tours because they owned their boats and guaranteed a small group (there were 7 of us total), most importantly there would be good food aboard.
The food was terrific, but because we were sharing our table with a lovely brother and sister from Portugal we decided to put away the camera and enjoy the fantastic scenery and conversation. But we must say every meal was seafood based and normally we don’t care for simply stir-fried squid, our favorite way is to have it salted peppered style (Portland Peeps you all know what we’re talking about) but freshly caught off the side of the boat made the squid incredibly fork tender like a perfectly grilled steak, giving us second thought for trying squid in the future. The stir-fried squid dish pictured above was a stand out, unbelievable tender, not a hint of the usually chewy squid we get back home. Other stand-outs for food was the incredibly creamy and not-one-single-lump potato soup, the big-as-your-palm shrimp cocktails and the simply steamed blue crabs. Our first day consisted cruising towards our destination in the bay and simply watching the activities of the bay.
Just watching life on the bay was fascinating.After lunch we were given the opportunity to kayak out into a grotto and into the middle of one of the islands.
This particular island also had monkeys even! We then went over to a nice beach area and hiked up to a viewpoint and watched the sunset.
As we returned to the boat we realized we were still in Vietnam as the ladies selling their wares rowed up to us, “madam, monsieur you buy something”.
Now we ask you who comes to a place this majestic and buys Oreos and Snickers? We blasted the women for not having fresh fruit and after many apologizes and explanations that these are the items tourists wants we guilted them into selling us two beers for 80¢.
We then had another terrific seafood dinner and after-dinner conversation while watching the boats try not to collide against each other, which they were unsuccessful. The next morning we were taken to a trio of caves inside one of the limestone islands and cavernous doesn’t begin to describe these caves.
After cave exploring we boarded the boat and headed back to the dock, but not before one last meal and more time relaxing as we cruised back to the dock.
This is one experience we will remember for the rest of our lives.