I stand with the warmth of the wood underneath my toes, the warm breeze rustling my hair, the sound of water splashing playfully below me the pink and lilac sky surrounding us like a silk sheet. The silhouettes of giant, striking rock formations getting darker as we slowly drift pass them, respecting their authority in the bay.
This was my favourite moment of Ha Long Bay, out of all four visits here. Such a perfect moment of absolute serenity, where I felt like the only person in the world, despite the hundreds of charming, white-painted wooden junk boats floating all around us.
As I mentioned, Ha Long Bay is not unfamiliar territory to me, but the difference with my final trip was that my mother had come to visit me in Hanoi and naturally as one of the Seven Wonders Of The World, this was on our ‘To-do’ list. This time, I chose not to book the trip with Hanoi Backpackers. Instead, we organized our trip through Phoenix, a more luxurious company, which offered a number of customizable packages and itineraries. We chose the Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Discovery package, which allowed us an overnight stay on board, and an overnight stay in an eco lodge, surrounding by lush forestry, in Cat Ba. I couldn’t recommend this tour more highly, it was perfect.
Our boat was beautiful with a large upper deck, large cabin bedrooms with huge windows offering a stunning view of the bay, a comfortable and spacious dining room area with bar, where we were given a feast for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a vast variety of meat and vegetarian dishes which we shared as a table. As we dined, we were able to admire the bay as we gracefully sailed through the waters.
Our unique itinerary took us to an island where we were able to snorkel and admire the stunning array of colours within the diverse fish population. Later we were taken to Sung Sot Cave, the most famous and popular cave in Ha Long Bay, situated on Bo Hon Island and only accessible with the ascent of a hundred steep steps surrounded by foliage and trees. Though the climb may be a struggle for some in the heat and humidity, the panoramic views along the way make it all worthwhile. Inside, there are a number of chambers, leading deeper within the cave, all featuring a number of magnificent stalagmites and stalactites stretching from floor to ceiling, many of them joining together and creating a pillar. Colourful lighting dotted around only adds to the dramatic nature of the cave. The following day gave us the freedom to kayak peacefully around the bay, past secluded beaches, lagoons, and take in the scenery at our own leisure, before returning our kayaks to one of the floating fishing villages. In other free time, we were able to go swimming or sunbathe on the top deck of the boat.
In the afternoon of our second day, we were taken to Cat Ba Island and driven by bus to the eco lodge we would be staying at, nestled within lush, verdant green forestry and hills. Though the rooms were beautiful, we discovered the hard way that there are often bats residing in there with you with might make a few surprise appearances while you’re watching TV.
Around the lodge are a number of activities you can indulge in, including cycling around the national park area, relaxing in the hidden hammocks within the gardens, trek through the forests, go fishing, or do some yoga. Sadly as the rains set in for us we were confined to our lodgings due to possible flooding. When we were taken back to the main land the next day, we were taken a different route on a hydrofoil speedboat, before greeting our bus driver who took us back to Hanoi.
Such a wonderful experience.