We rang in the New Year with an adventurous day-trip to Halong Bay, located in northeastern Vietnam, which translates literally to “descending dragon bay”. Halong Bay was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 for its outstanding, universal aesthetic value, as well as its outstanding geological and geomorphological value.
In 2009, the New 7 Wonders Foundation included Halong Bay on its list of nominations as one of the World’s New 7 Wonders of Nature. In 2012, the New 7 Wonders Foundation officially named Halong Bay as one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world. During our 3-½ hour drive through the fertile flood plains of the Red River Delta, we observed rice fields and rural towns. We also stopped at Hong Ngoc (red jade), a bazaar that included textiles and ceramics created by young adults with disabilities. Donations benefiting the disabled workers were also accepted. Once we arrived at Halong Bay, we boarded a private boat for a 4-hour cruise of the stunning area.
On the boat, we dined on a delicious fresh local seafood feast. When the boat docked, we explored two of the limestone caves in the bay. These breathtaking limestone caves have gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments.
The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. After exiting the cave, we were greeted by local vendors selling coconuts. Several of us purchased said coconuts.
The coconuts’ refreshing water was just the right way to reenergize after our steep hikes up the trails surrounding the caves. After the caves, we boarded the boat once again, taking time to reflect on our amazing journey atop the boat’s top deck while enjoying our last moments to take in the view of a small portion of the 2,000 islands (only 1,000 of which are named!), which come in various shapes and sizes. Alas, as we write this blog post, we are back on the bus, making the long 45mph drive back to Hanoi. All in all, it was a fabulous way to kick-start 2013 in Vietnam!
Klaudia Stolarczuk and Elyssa Pavone