Halong Bay is located a few hours from Hanoi in the northern part of Vietnam. It is famous for its blue waters and limestone peaks that reach out of the surface of the bay like dragon's teeth. It's also famous for "junk" cruises on wooden boats like the Halong Jasmine pictured above. Or, if you're a six year old boy, Halong Bay means a two day ride on a real pirate ship!
Our ship was built in the 1930's and had about 16 or so guest cabins. It was beautifully maintained and covered with wood. We've been on big cruise ships, and this little junk was every bit as nice as the mega ships that sail the Caribbean.
We had a balcony room - the first balcony on the left side of the picture was ours. It was wonderful to sit and enjoy a frosty cola while watching the limestone islets creep by.
The attraction in Halong Bay is definitely the scenery. These enormous tree-topped limestone monoliths are scattered as far as the eye can see.
In Vietnamese, "halong" literally means descending dragon. We found a rock here that definitely looked like a dragon had stopped to take a sip of the water.
Here are more of the limestone peaks, with a small fishing boat in the foreground.
The shallow waters are rich in nutrients, thus making Halong Bay a very good fishing location. We toured a fishing village that has existed for hundreds of years. Families live in houses that are floating out on the ocean. They have everything they need to live, including a school, a Taoist temple, and a town hall. Fresh water and food is brought in from the mainland.
Entire families made their homes in the fishing villiage. I'm sure the children know how to swim really well! We saw everything in these houses that you'd expect to see in a home built on land: dishes, laundry, toys, and some homes even had sattelinte television.
The hats are pretty cool, too.
As those of you who studied geology already know, limestone is quite water soluble (for a rock, that is). So when rain water falls on these giant limestone islets, small trickles of water eventually wash away parts of the limestone and form caves. This process takes an extremely long time, but the results are breathtaking. Here is Jennifer and Craig in front of a multi-colored stalagtite formation.
Later that night we all had dinner on board the ship, and then relaxed in our cabin in the shadows of the dramatic rocks.
Halong Bay was a lot of relaxing fun. We weren't sure Craig would like it, but he walked around the ship pretending to be Captain Jack Sparrow the entire time.Here he is, holding his pirate gold (which is actually the key to our cabin). It was a very relaxing two days, and we wish we could have had more time. But then, no one ever wants to get off a cruise when it's over!
Watch for our exciting post about Hanoi in the next few days!