Way back when I initially approached my old manager to request a 12 month career break to take this trip (Hi Craig!), I said we’d be going to Vietnam. His eyes lit up and said ‘make sure you visit Halong Bay’, and I’m so glad he told me about this place.
Through a trip organised by our hostel and a company called Ocean Tours, we booked ourselves on a 2 day trip around the bay. A couple of hours on a minibus later, we stepped onto our boat and began our voyage. According to legend, Ha Long Bay was created a thousand years ago, when the Jade Emporer felt sorry for the Vietnamese people as they were constantly being attacked by invaders from the North. He sent his dragon down to protect them, who in turn threw thousands of gem stones into the see, which immediately grew into the many islands we see today, causing the invaders ships to crash and saving Vietnam. The truth is much less exciting, as really the bay was formed when tectonic plates crashed into each other a few million years ago. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that this place is anything less than absolutely magical.
There are nearly 2,000 of these islands scattered around, and each one is just as beautiful as the last. We stopped for a quick kayaking trip through naturally formed caves which led to a green lagoon, and then stopped again for a swim in one of the calmer parts of the sea. The water was the perfect temperature and I could have stayed there for hours! Our boat anchored for the day at Cat Ong Island, just off the coast from Cat Bo Island. Quich history lesson: Cat Bo is also known as ‘Woman Island’, as when initially discovered, they found only women. It was a fishing colony, and all the men would be out to see. Cat Ong Island was named later and is translated as ‘Man Island’. This used to be the site of a military installation and thus only men would be found here. Clever huh? We settled down for the night after some beach volleyball and watched the sun set with a seafood barbecue, and we looked forward to the next day of our excursion…