Boats & Travel: HALONG BAY, VIETNAM

Imagine taking a two-day poetic and cultural journey through one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. Imagine waking up in a traditional Vietnamese junk boat on smooth, cool waters of Halong Bay and sailing from bay to bay as the sun rises. Imagine swimming in crystal clear waters so gentle that dolphins can be seen frolicking on land just meters away.

Both boat and kayak trips are offered by an increasing number of tour companies, but some boats aren’t as simple as a kayak trip. Junk boats have been around for decades and offer an unforgettable way to experience Vietnam’s signature inland sea – Halong Bay. There are many styles of junk boats in Halong Bay. The most common style is the flat-bottomed wooden junk, although nowadays they are usually not made out of wood anymore, they are made from Fiberglass. There are also more elegant models which come with stabilizers, lounges on the top deck and even private cabins if you want more privacy. Boats also vary on their size but most ones you can find on line or as part of a tour company in Hanoi are about 15 meters to 20 meters in length. You will also notice that many of these boats have tiled roofs which actually do make it slightly easier to sail when the wind picks up but for the most part this isn’t really necessary for smallish sized junk boats.

The perfect escape from bustling Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Halong Bay has been drawing travellers for decades. This time-warped landscape was once a hideout for pirates and its perforated cliffs have enchanted artists and travellers for centuries.

From a birdseye view from your scenic junk boat, you’ll get the chance to not just see it but experience it as well – with plenty of kayaking, swimming and snorkelling stops around the countless limestone karsts (islets) that puncture the shimmering emerald waters. Then, once you’ve had your fill of breathing in this tropical island heaven, break out the gongs, guitars and anything in between as you take part in on-board karaoke sessions and early morning vinyasa yoga sessions around your floating luxury hotel.

Halong Bay, Vietnam is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts, islands, islets and rocks. Some of the scenic highlights include the Hon Mun island group, the Tuan Chau Island group and Cat Ba island with its famous grotto. There are also many interesting historical sites from the Japanese occupation period (1940-1945). Some of these places include a jet fighter base on Phong Dien island, a big tunnel in Dong Van, Truong Sa islands which were used as outposts for North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam war (1965-1975).

Step aboard a traditional Vietnamese Junk boat in the late afternoon and by early next morning, you’ll be drifting through pre-dawn phosphorescence and lazily cruising towards a dramatic coastline where nature has done all the hard work.

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