There’s a reason Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Why it’s been featured in
so many movies, including a Bond film. The limestone cliff-islands rising out of emerald green glassy waters of the bay in Vietnam near its border with China resemble mythical creatures. Monkeys scamper down to the water’s edge or watch travelers, unseen, from the dense greenery. It’s a surreal environment that has captured the imagination of nearby inhabitants, and travelers, from the earliest times.
We were fortunate to experience Halong Bay from three perspectives. We arrived on a Seabourn yacht, sailing through the wider, open navigation channel that hinted at the mysteries further into the bay.
Then we transferred to a dragon-headed junk; the symbolic boat of the region, protected by its guardian creature. Our guide, Mr. Anh, shared stories of some of the islands, and some of the animals they’re named after that had us craning our necks to picture… ‘Two chickens’?
And finally, right down to the water level, kayaking around islands, under limestone archways, up close and next to curious and tentatively friendly monkeys. It made the surreal surroundings finally seem real; we could touch and hear the water gliding by, and paddle into secluded coves that seemed all our own.
A triptych of experiences on one of the world’s most fabled bodies of water, certainly perked up our appetite for a Vietnamese hot pot lunch on the junk on our way back to our Seabourn ship!