CRUISE VIETNAM’S HALONG BAY
Otherworldly, exotic, mythical, and ethereal are just some of the words used to describe Halong Bay, Vietnam. But none come close to doing this special place justice — you simply have to experience it firsthand aboard a Halong Bay cruise.
A Dragon’s Touch
Formed by geological forces over the course of 500 million years, this Bay of the Descending Dragon, as it is translated, does indeed look like a coastal scape carved by the thrashing of a dragon’s tail. At least that’s how the “tale” goes. Whether created by a mythical beast or the passage of time, what remains are nearly 2,000 islands and islets, most uninhabited and topped with lush vegetation — others stand as bald limestone pillars, like sentinels on watch.
Cruising and Exploring
While most visitors arrive to Halong Bay by a large cruise ship, the best way to truly experience this wonder is aboard a traditional dragon-sailed junk. The relaxed-pace and smaller vessel affords an unparalleled opportunity to take in as much as of this special place as possible.
A variety of companies operate two to three-day outings with onboard accommodations. Longer cruises tend to go deeper into the bay, with visits to some of the more remote and off-the-beaten path islands. Local as well as Western cuisine is on offer and opportunities for swimming, kayaking, hiking, visits to fishing villages, cooking demonstrations, and even specialties like tai chi in a grotto can be arranged.
Caves and grottos are a familiar feature as many islands are actually hollow. More adventurous visitors may choose to explore these formations. The local cruises will include visits to some of the more popular islands with opportunities for cave and grotto viewing.
One of the largest and best examples lies within the island of Bo Hon, in the middle of Halong Bay. Named Surprise Cave, to describe the initial feeling expressed by visitors upon entering, its thousands of colorful stalactites hang like chandeliers.
Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave) is considered one of the most beautiful with its multi-colored stalactites hanging from tall ceilings and stalagmites jutting up in unusual shapes. The unique play of natural light that finds its way in against the colored forms evokes a vision straight out of a Jules Verne novel.
The manmade Hospital Cave on Cat Ba Island was built as a secret military installation by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Its three stories were in use until the end of hostilities in 1975.
Find more information about Holland America Line's Asia cruises that explores beautiful areas such as Indonesia and more.