I love a good cruise, and I was thrilled to discover our Vietnam itinerary included an over night cruise to explore Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Cruising in Halong Bay

The Setting

Ha Long Bay, known locally as the Bay of Descending Dragons, because a sea serpent is said to have been seen here by local fisherman. It is known for its unique limestone islands that rise as pinnacles out of the sea. Close to 2000 conical shaped islands rise spectacularly across the bay.

With camera gear in tow, we boarded the 32 passenger ship, the Glory Legend. Our two day cruise was all inclusive – several excursions, all our meals, and a bottle of wine. This is my kind of cruising. This small ship even offered a cooking demonstration, happy hour and evening entertainment – a 3 hour movie on Indochina with subtitles!  (We opted to wait for the movie review before taking this one in.)

It was stormy as we set sail, adding intrigue to our adventure at we went to sea.

The Adventure

The skies cleared enough for our first excursion. Boarding our junket  (a tender of sorts), we headed to “Secret Cave”. (It’s not so secret – everyone goes there).  A local in a rowboat ushered us through the cave and into another world. Sheer limestone cliffs enveloped the small lagoon while monkeys scrambled up vines. Beautiful, yes, but at midday with the harsh sun, it was not photo worthy.

Onto the next excursion, announced to us as “a hike”.  Jeff rolled his eyes. As I always say, “The view is always better from the top”. So leaving Jeff little choice, we began the  climb of over 500 stone steps.

Yes, the hike was worth it!

Drenched, but happy. Photo courtesy of Alessandro Vannucci.

The seaman’s story was true, shooting into the sun, I could see a dragon descending from the clouds

Another storm was brewing at sunset offering us great clouds but limited colors…

The clouds were the show this evening!

Sunrise, again filled with clouds and a limited magical moment.

For a brief moment there was color in the sky

Colors of sunrise through the storm clouds

The next day’s excursion was to “Surprise Cave” (again, not a surprise – everyone was here). We ascended  hundreds more stone stairs only to then go down into the depths of this limestone cave. Although we entered through a narrow opening, the immensity of the cave became apparent the deeper we went. Rock formations were lit with beautiful colors and  the formations took on shapes of the monsters that were once in the sea. It was a little too touristy for my taste. But even if the lighting was artificial, the colors combined with the rock formations created interesting patterns.  What do you think, beautiful or ticky tacky?

Surprise Cave – Colorfully lit walls illuminate the pathway that winds through and up towards the light.

Beautifully lit limestone walls and ceilings

A storm ushered back to port as our cruising adventure came to a close.

We had a great time chasing the light and the dragons on our mini-cruise. And, remember, it’s all about the light.