This bay is about 5 hours away from Hanoi by bus, so of course we had to go. Some people go for a day trip however we decided to do a 3 day 2 night medium size cruise and it was awesome!
Our bus was full of couples from all over, like England, Germany, Spain, France, Canada, Brasil and a handsome American and a cute Colombian ;)
On the way we stopped in a shop that had tons of statues and a craft factory. it was great to see how the people work on these items.
Also the bus ride was quite good as we got to see a lot of the country side which is very beautifull and gives you a different perception of Vietnam, far from the busy streets of Saigon and Hanoi.
Once we arrived at the port, you could instantly see the amazing isles all over the bay!
We then got to the Viola Cruise and I was really nice. I totally recommend it. The rooms and definitely the bathrooms are way bigger than some big cruise ships I have been to.
The cruise had a busy schedule, including visiting quite a few caves all over the bay.
Some caves were so small that we had to crawl on our knees to pass by some of the tunnels. On top of that there were some crazy big spiders that live in there, plus the obvious bats. I gotta say that it was quite an experience!
The crawling paid off as there was a lagune at the end of one of the caves that was beautiful.
We also climbed up to the top of the "Tip Top" mountain
where you can see the full bay from above.
Our tour guide mentioned that almost every picture of Ha long bay found in tourism magazines is taken from here, and I see why!
At the bottom of the mountain there is a nice beach, perfect to refresh after coming down the mountain. However what they don't tell you is that it was full of jellyfish!
I, in fact got stung by one on my arm!. The jellyfish was clear color with a purple line around it. (Something very similar to this but way smaller)
We quickly got out the water and showed our guide, he got some ice and had me rub it. Then later he just gave me lime juice and salt and rub it on my arm and everything was ok! :) this proves that house remedies work!
We also did some awesome kayaking, as there are tons of small tunnels and openings in between the mountains that take you to amazing lagunes.
While kayaking we saw the biggest black looking jellyfish ever! I then found out that Ha long bay exports them all over Asia as they have on of the biggest jellyfish population in the world! Good to know...
Another highlight was our visit to a pearl farm. I had no idea that pearls could be cultivated this way.
They take the oysters, open them up, make a small incision in their womb and implant in there a little anesthetic and a tinny esfere.
Then the oyster starts secreting a substance around the esfere to try to heal themselves which in turn creates a the pearl!
They have different sections in the water, where they have been cultivating oysters for 3 years, 5 years and 10 years! and the craziest thing is that not all the oysters create pearls as some simply die...
The cruise also had tons of activities, like squid fishing... (It was more like - have drinks, talk and make fun of ourselfs as we didn't catch anything for 30 minutes! Ha)
Thai Chi class and a nice cooking class, where we learned how to make spring rolls.
It was really fun and we met tons of people.
After the cruise, we went back to Hanoi and left to Da Nang, which is a smaller city on coast of Vietnam.
For example, they have a dragon bridge that changes color and actually blows fire twice at night during the weekends! Pretty cool.
Also the hugmongust statue of Lady Buddha and temple on top of the mountain, which can be seen from anywhere in the city
It also has nice areas by the river full of nice restaurants and bars.
Another highlight for us was to drive a scooter in Vietnam. As I mentioned before the traffic in Vietnam is nuts! but since this was a smaller city and beach town it felt a little safer, but still it was an adventure!
We rented a scooter from our hotel for $7 USD a day, so we drove by the coast all the way to Ho ian.
On the way we stopped at the Marble Mountain which has a huge buddis temple.
Inside the mountain, there are tons of awesome carvings on the stones around it.
Also it has tons of passages inside that you can climb up to and get amazing views of the city and then beach.
Back in war days, this temple was actually used as a hidden hospital by the US trops during the Vietnam war. Pretty interesting.
After about 45 mins scooter ride, we arrived to Ho Ian. This city is a bit more touristy than Da Nang, and the beaches are definitely crawded.
A must place to go is the ancient town area by the river. It has a beautiful arquitecture, tons of cool shops and restaurants.
Also you can light up a lantern, make a wish and let it float on the river.
Then, what better than have some super cheap beers while playing an enormous Jenga at a local bar? Ha!
Vietnam was truly great, but we had to say good bye to get ready for our next destination! The Philippines :)