The mystical Ha Long Bay
LEGEND has it that when Vietnam was a newly-formed country, its people had to fight against invaders from the north through the sea.
To help the Vietnamese, the Jade Emperor was said to have sent the Mother Dragon and her children to help the people defend the country.
When the enemies were attacking Vietnam, the Mother Dragon and her children spewed fire and giant emeralds, subduing the foes. The emeralds, it is believed, formed a defensive wall, sinking the fleet of ships of the enemies.
With the victory, peace was finally had in Vietnam and after a thousand years, the wall of emerald turned into islands and islets.
To remember the help of the Mother Dragon and her children, the bay where the Mother Dragon descended was called Ha Long (where the dragon descends into the sea), and the bay where her children descended was called Bai Tu Long, which means “thanks to the Dragon’s children.”
Even without the background of the legend about Halong Bay, cruising in this UNESCO World Heritage Site was otherworldly.
After spending a night and a day in Hanoi, we headed out of the city and took a three-hour bus trip to the dock where the boat of Glory Legend Cruise was waiting.
Upon arrival on the boat, after the preliminaries about safety an instructions were given to passengers, we were finally treated to a sumptuous lunch, consisting of so many sets and dishes that I lost count after the nth time we were served some mouth-watering seafood.
While dining, the boat began to cruise and then not only was your taste being delighted, your sight was also being treated to the stunning scenery of the bay’s numerous islands and islets.
Islands and islets and rock formation with lush vegetation were everywhere you turn your eyes to look. Those and with mist floating around these rock formations, and you get the feeling of being transported to some ancient land where people still believe in mythical creatures and enchanting tales.
As you feel the glide of the vessel on the water, you also get conflicted between closing your eyes and enjoying the moment and keeping your eyes open and take everything in.
Looking at the islands and islets, one can’t help but take a deep breath and feel exultant about the beauty of nature.
After a brief rest, we were off to cave exploring, and kayaking and swimming. A small ferry boat took the passengers to the Vung Cave.
Two options were given to the passengers: first was the “lazy” option with passengers being ferried to the underground cave on a bamboo boat with a local doing all the rowing; and on the other hand, the adventurous passengers were given the option to kayak on their own and explore the underground cave by themselves.
While on the boat, we saw another boat full of tourists trying to coax a family of monkeys to make an appearance. After making some (weird) noises, the monkeys deigned to appear, swinging from branches to branches.
Depending on the day’s heat index, the trip to the cave could be unbearably humid, but the experience and the sight were worth your temporary inconvenience.
It was the highlight of the overnight cruise.
After leaving the Vung Vieng Fishing Village, we then headed to the Ti Top Island whose beach was the only area where tourists were allowed to swim. Ti Top island got its name from Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov who, on August 6, 1961, became the second human to orbit the earth.
Our cruise manager said that among the numerous islands in Ha Long Bay, only island no. 48 was given a name and it was in honor of Titov.
Last year, the Quang Ninh province unveiled a huge monument of Titov on the island.
But if you’d rather not bathe, then you could opt to take the 427 steps up the island stairs and enjoy the island’s view from the top. Be warned though that ascending the stairs would be no easy feat.
Back to the cruise ship, before dinner was served, guests were taught by the head chef how to make watermelon carvings, and fresh spring rolls.
Dinner was a lavish affair, with the cruise staff serving the best of Vietnamese cuisine to the guests, including fried spring rolls, and other dishes featuring prawns, clams, and marlin, among others.
Those wanting to lose weight, break your diet, because it would not be the right time to skip your food.
The following day, we woke up early to catch the stunning of sun rising over Ha Long Bay, and it was a magnificent scene. It became cloudy as the day wore on as we set sail back to the pier where our transfer back to Hanoi was waiting for us.