Ha Long Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin Vietnam

Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin in Northern Vietnam is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Vietnamese legend has it that the bay was formed when a Dragon fell to earth. There are just under 2,000 islands and rock formations in the bay and most all are uninhabited. Halong Bay is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. You can easily get there from Ha Noi and most of the companies that are allowed to operate boats in the bay also include transportation from Ha Noi.

Long way to Ha Long Bay, is if the company that takes you there from Ha Noi doesn’t take the toll road to get there. The long way (about 190km with lower speed limits) adds a lot of time and may take as long as three to four hours. The toll road (150km) is much faster, about two hours. The scenic value of the slow road does not make up for the added time. I did not know this in advance, so I wound up on the slow road going there. Going back I changed to the toll road which is a better choice.

This is the not quite so scenic, but much faster route.
This is the not quite so scenic, but much faster route.
Speed limits on the toll road leaving Ha Long Bay going back to Ha Noi.
Speed limits on the toll road leaving Ha Long Bay going back to Ha Noi.
Leaving the harbor on Cat Ba island and sailing out into Ha Long Bay on the Djonk for a three day sail.
Leaving the harbor on Cat Ba island and sailing out into Ha Long Bay on the Djonk for a three day sail.
The Captain is navigating out of the harbor.
The Captain is navigating out of the harbor.
Looking up at the Bridge.
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The limestone islands in Ha Long Bay are spectacular to look at.
The limestone islands in Ha Long Bay are spectacular to look at.
More limestone formations.
More limestone formations.
A fisherman is on his way.
A fisherman is on his way.

The cruise company does a pretty good job of entertaining the guests when nature alone is not enough to fill the time. One popular event is the “make your own spring roll”. There is a demonstration to follow along in to show you how to roll it and then you may try your hand at making a spring roll.

Making spring rolls

Making spring rolls, put in the fillings!

Making spring rolls, now the hard part - roll 'em up!
Making spring rolls, now the hard part – roll ’em up!

Once you have mastered the technique of spring rolling, you get to eat your creation as an appetizer at dinner.

My own handmade vegetarian spring roll! With a Ha Noi Beer!
My own handmade vegetarian spring roll! With a Ha Noi Beer!
Dinner soup - Pumpkin Soup.
Dinner soup – Pumpkin Soup.
Vegetarian dinner option.
Vegetarian dinner option.

Being a vegetarian or even vegan in Vietnam, is in my experience easy. The pork is of course used a lot here, as in most S/E Asian countries, but good vegetarian options are readily available. If they are not on the menu, most kitchens will change dishes so as to be vegetarian/vegan if you just ask. For the Ha Long Cruise companies, just notify them in advance and they will have your options available.

Moon over Ha Long Bay.
Moon over Ha Long Bay.
Sun is on the way up.
Sun is on the way up.
Daylight is starting to light up Ha Long.
Daylight is starting to light up Ha Long.
Early morning is the time when the re-fueling barges comes around and refuels the Djonks for another day in Ha Long bay..
Early morning is the time when the re-fueling barges comes around and refuels the Djonks for another day in Ha Long bay..
One of the awesome limestone little islet-cliffs in Ha Long Bay.
One of the awesome limestone little islet-cliffs in Ha Long Bay.
The beach on Ti top island (named for Russian cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov) above at a time when it is pretty much deserted, however when the boats shops up this beach can be full of people, so full that it is a challenge to walk on it. My best guess is that maybe as many as 1,00 people crowded this beach at my visit and made it pretty much unbearable.
The beach at a time when it is pretty much deserted, however when the boats shops up this beach can be full of people, so full that it is a challenge to walk on it. My best guess is that maybe as many as 1,00 people crowded this beach at my visit and made it pretty much unbearable.

One of the excursions takes you to The beach on Ti top island (named for Russian cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov). This is one of the few beaches in Ha Long Bay that is now open to visitors. It used to be a “free for all” but the local government had to step in to make sure that the area was not totally destroyed by tourists that had no regard for the fragile environment. Today there are only a few beaches where the boats are allowed to take tourists that want to go swimming. This restriction obviously mean that the most accessible beaches get overrun by people and the obviously takes away ,most of the enjoyment of the beach trip. The boats are also only allowed to anchor up in certain areas and after an accident in 2010 they are put in the same areas so as to have help nearby should anything go wrong.

The Ti Top island has a statue honoring the Russian Cosmonaut that is tis named for, Gherman Stepanovich Titov (1935-2000).
Ti Top island has a statue honoring the Russian Cosmonaut that is tis named for, Gherman Stepanovich Titov (1935-2000).
The sun came out to shine on Ti Top island and the beach.
The sun came out to shine on Ti Top island and the beach.
A bit more crowded here at the small Ti Top island beach.
A bit more crowded here at the small Ti Top island beach.
More limestone cliffs against dark rain filled clouds.
More limestone cliffs against dark rain filled clouds.
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