Ha Long Bay is about an hour away from Hanoi and is probably the most popular tourist site in Vietnam. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sees approximately 2 million tourists a year. The bay is so special because it is filled with thousands of limestone karsts which are basically tall columns which have emerged out of the water over the course millions of years.
The thousands of tourists who visit per day either take a day boat to see the bay or go by overnight cruise which anchors in the middle of bay.
There are hundreds of cruises which set out every day at every price point, we went for the mid-range option. When we were picked up from out hotel in the morning, we were informed that we had been upgraded because there was not enough room on the cruise we booked. On the more luxurious cruise, we were the youngest people by at least 30 years. Out of the 30 something people on the boat, all but 6 were a group of Indian retirees from London.
It turned out that this group came prepared to party! After dinner, all the women dressed in saris and even had an extra outfit for Rona. We danced all night to Indian music and played silly games like “who can dress their husband in a sari the fastest” and “who has the most best fake laugh.” Our boat definitely had the most exciting party on the bay that night.
The second day we visited a cave called Sung Sot Cave. The cave is special because it contains the largest grotto in Ha Long Bay and has limestone formations dating back 500 million years.
Ha Long Bay is a truly spectacular natural phenomenon. However, after returning, we couldn’t help but feel something must be done by the Vietnamese government to control the damage done by tourism. The hundreds of boats consistently within view subtracted from our enjoyment, in addition to the tons of garbage left behind. Hopefully, there can be a sustainable solution for the future so tourists for years to come can enjoy the sites.