Sailing Halong Bay
Featured destinations: Vietnam, Halong Bay
Published 30 March 2016
The first thing we did was hop on a little non-motorised boat and float through a low ceilinged cave. On the other side was a quiet inlet where some tiny monkeys were swinging through the trees. My eye, however, was caught by the floating sweet shop. For in the middle of the water, far away from shore, there was a lady rowing around with a boat full of junk food and booze. It was surreal to say the least.Our next stop was at Surprise Cave; the surprise being that it is absolutely massive! As we walked through the cave our guide pointed out shapes in the rock formations which resembled different people and animals (sort of). We slowly wound our way up through the cave and the best bit for me was coming outside again at the top to get a beautiful aerial view of the bay.
The next activity on the agenda was kayaking. I held back on the boat, afraid and unwilling to get wet in such cold temperatures, but when it looked like everyone else in our group (including many of the older generation) were going to take part, I thought I had better man up. And it was worth it. Rowing our own kayak meant we could get much closer to some of the fishing villages I had been peering at from the junk boat. Fisherman and their families have set up floating villages in little clusters around the gorgeous green bay. We could see dogs running around the planks and there was a schoolroom in one hut. Rowing even closer we discovered we could hear the unmistakeable beat of Gangnam Style blasting from one of the homes – that song really is everywhere.When I opened the curtains in the morning it was a surprise to see those phenomenal rocks poking out through the water, right outside our window.Proud to have made it back to the boat without capsizing we joined the other guests for some beers on the top deck. In summer, the crew explained, all the boats play music and the top deck turns into a dance floor. We braved the cold just long enough to watch the sunset and then went back inside for the evening entertainment. Tonight we will be showing a ‘movie’, we were told, named Top Gear Vietnam Special. Brilliant!After several courses of fresh seafood and sweet and sour chicken I fell asleep to the sound of the engine’s gentle hum. The boat barely moved in the night and when I opened the curtains in the morning it was a surprise to see those phenomenal rocks poking out through the water, right outside our window.After all the action from the day before, our second day was about cruising. We looped around another part of the bay and I took about a million photos of the famous rocks I had ogled at in brochures for so long. Just before lunch we were called back inside to help out; we were to be making the Vietnamese Spring rolls. Some of us had more success than others at rolling them up but they all tasted great in the end.Lunch was served back in the harbour whilst we waited for a tender to take us back to shore. The minibuses were already parked up to take us back to Hanoi that afternoon. For us that was the end of our time being well guided and fed by Intrepid because we had a flight to catch but for many of the group it was just the start on their southbound Vietnam adventure (the tour continues to Ho Chi Mihn city via Hue and Hoi An).Sailing around Halong Bay was one of the main reasons I was so keen to visit Vietnam and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The whole area really is as breath taking and unforgettable as you imagine it will be.