July 22, 2020
Today was supposed to be our rest day… Exactly, supposed to be! Because how can you rest if you run around the city all day? We have to plan and organize the next few days. As we are already in the north of Vietnam, we got to think about our next destination: Laos. The first step is to get a visa at the embassy, which was located more than two kilometers from our hotel. So after breakfast, we run to take care of it. It turned out that for an extra $5 it will be ready today. It cost us a total of $25 per person, whereas if you let a hotel do it for you, it would be $50 per person. So it pays to do things yourself.
After returning to the hotel we try to solve another dilemma, which is how and which way to get over to Laos. We find a travel agency, and buy a ticket for the bus, which will take us to Luang Prabang in Laos. The trip will take 27 hours. It is the option that best suits us. At 3:00 pm we go to pick up our passports running again on foot. It turned out that we got a visa for two months, valid from now. We could not take care of this any simpler than that 🙂 On the way back from the embassy, we visit the city. We read reviews that the city of Hanoi is not very interesting, and we somewhat agree. We walk along the lake, which is located in the city center. After a meal, we walk around the Old Quarter, a neighborhood in which we stay.
And why are we going to Laos on Monday, which is in 3 days, you may ask. Well, because for the next three days we planned a trip to the most famous attraction of Vietnam: the Ha Long Bay. We cannot wait to get there and really relax.
To this day, we remember the moment when we first saw photos of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It was a moment full of amazement and admiration for this natural beauty. Now, a few years later, we are sitting on a bus, which takes us to Ha Long City, the place next to Ha Long Bay. We are very excited: within a few hours we will see the place about which we dreamed for so long. Even after a short, three-hour sleep the night before, we do not feel tired, and our eyes are wide open.
Ha Long, in the local language means "where the dragon descends into the sea". There is a legend about it: One day, the gods sent down from the heavens to the earth dragon that fought to defend people against evil. During this visit, it saw the bay… It got so attracted to its beauty and charm, it made the dragon decide to stay here and never go back to the heavens. As for the real facts, the bay "covers an area of 1500 km ², which is about 1900 scattered rocky islands and islets. Most of the islands are in the form of limestone pillars emerging high above the surface of the water. Limestone substrate promotes the formation of numerous caves and grottos. The rainforest here has a high diversity of plant and animal worlds. In 1994 UNESCO placed it on its list of World Heritage Sites".
After arriving at the port, we take care of necessary formalities. There are a lot of tourists here, which does not surprise us. Our three-day tour consists of one night on the boat, and one in the hotel on the island of Cat Ba. After arranging tickets we are transported to our boat that is waiting for us with a welcome drink. We get a double cabin, quite good-looking. Then a meal with Vietnamese specialties awaits us. The first impression of the visit to the bay is very positive. The weather is not cooperating with clouds obscuring the beautiful views, but huge rock formations emerging from the mists can easily be seen. We are not discouraged by the lack of blue sky and after a meal, we go onto the roof of the ship to admire the scenery around us.
We go to explore another cave known as "Surprising", which is located on one of the islands. Although a few days ago we visited the huge and fabulous Paradise Cave, we love this one just as much. We visit the three main chambers, from the smallest to the largest, by going through narrow passages. Stalactites and stalagmites formations are so fancy, with a bit of imagination, you can see animals and other creatures. Ceiling looks very interesting, formed by water for thousands, or maybe millions of years. After visiting the cave, we have a bit of time for kayaking. It is short, only a half-hour, due to the approaching twilight. We kayak around one of the islands, encountering another cave!
After a pleasantly spent afternoon, we return to our ship. Moments later, a delicious dinner is served. After the meal we go again to the roof of the ship to enjoy the peace and tranquility of this amazing place on Earth. Tomorrow we are visiting Cat Ba Island, where more attractions await us...
“No place is ever as bad as they tell you it’s going to be.” – Chuck Thompson