What an incredible way to end our trip. Four hours drive out from Hanoi is Halong Bay, where we spent two days and one night on a boat. The landscape was spectacular - 1600 islands (I wasn't expecting there to be so many!) emerging from the sea everywhere you see. The islands are limestone stacks with loads of natural features such as caves and arches, and on the first day we got the chance to kayak around one island and have a little explore.The traditional explanation as to the creation of the islands is that a dragon came down from the mountains, and it's tail carved out valleys as it descended, and when it finally went into the sea, the area filled with water leaving only the peaks visible.
Imagine 2000 or more islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Halong translates as 'where the dragon descends into the sea', and legend claims the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.
Our boat was big enough to carry 20 passengers, but this time there were only 6 of us, so we had the whole boat to ourselves and we could really get to know the other passengers. There was so much food it was unbelievable. As well as kayaking on the first day, we climbed what felt like thousands of steps on one of the islands to reach a viewing point. It gave a 360 degree view - incredible. Whilst the crew were setting up for dinner I got talking to the bar manager. He taught me how to fold the napkins all fancy, and I taught him some English words (fold, rectangle, diamond). He told me he's trying to learn 10 new words a day as he wants to become a tour guide evenutally.
That evening gave squid fishing a go! No squid was caught, however a massive jelly fish appeared from under the jetty and the crew got very excited and managed to catch it in a basket. It was huge! Very exciting but we soon let it swim away. The next morning we visited the 'surprising cave' which was magnificent.
After an extremely peaceful couple of days I wasn't looking forward to coming back to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi - the heat is becoming unbearable!