Photo Tour: Halong Bay (Vietnam)

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Halong Bay view
Halong Bay view

Cruising through Halong Bay (Halong means “descending dragon”) felt very much like a scene in a sci-fi movie (Lord of the Rings comes to mind) with huge limestone monoliths (known as karsts) randomly jutting out of the water. The overcast weather added to the mystique.

At the embarkation docks, a very long set of steps led to the little boats that would ferry us to our overnight vessel, known as a “Junk.”

I’m glad the staff did all the heavy lifting of the luggage because I don’t think I would have managed.

Docks at Halong Bay
Docks at Halong Bay

I had never heard of boats being called Junks before and no one I asked at Halong Bay seemed to know what made a boat a Junk.

Well, according to Wiki, a Junk is an ancient Chinese sailing vessel design still in use today. The junks in Halong Bay used to be stained in a dark-brown finish resembling old wooden ships. At some point, the governing body in Halong Bay demanded that all the junks be painted white (my guide couldn’t tell me the reason why) but that demand has been lifted so both dark and white colored boats currently sail the bay.

Our junk was called the Phoenix and I found the accomodations cozy but adequate and comfortable. Wee Scotch and I shared a queen-sized bed and I was happy that the bathroom had a separate bath (instead of being a wet bath – I hate wet baths – everything just gets…wet).

Food was decent but bland as Mom and I as well as our table mates were constantly adding salt or soy sauce to our food.

Our "Junk"
Our “Junk” – the Phoenix

Boat culture. Row boats selling all sorts of food come to you…

Mobile food stall
Mobile food stall

…including live seafood.

Fresh seafood "stall"
Fresh seafood “stall” trailing the catch still alive


Seafood stall
Seafood “stall” trailing the catch

We had a couple of shore excursions, one of them being a hike up one of the karsts to Hang Sung Sot (Cave of the Surprises).

I carried Wee Scotch up the many flights of stairs in an Ergo baby carrier and that worked out really well.

Halong Bay Caves
Halong Bay Caves

Inside the cave was a vast network of tunnels with interesting formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

Halong Bay Caves
Halong Bay Caves

We also went ashore at Dao Ti Top where Grandma and I hiked up to the top (very nice views) and Mom and Wee Sctoch stayed to play on the beach.

Halong Bay beach
Halong Bay beach

We didn’t bring Wee Scotch’s swim trunks so he had a bit of a splash all naked. The water was cold!

Yes, I photoshopped a fig leaf on Wee Scotch for some modesty.

I went kayaking on the bay around a few of the karsts…

Kayaking Halong Bay
Kayaking Halong Bay

…the water was so still that kayaking was absolutely relaxing.  More so because my kayak partner was one of the guides so I let him do most of the paddling 🙂 as I have a bad wrist 🙁 .

Kayaking in Halong Bay
Kayaking in Halong Bay

Shame about the polluted water with all the boats that make the trip here on a daily basis. Oil slicks, rubbish…

Recently, I read something about a 13-year old chef but have you seen this 2-year old boat captain before?


Wee Scotch made a great friend in this hand puppet know as George. After a few hours of watching the famous Vietnamese puppetry shows (or “shoups” in Toddlerese) in Hanoi, he was obsessed with all things puppets (Mama! More puppet “shoups” please).

Here is a of Wee Scotch and George steering the ship:

Fast friends:

George the Bunny
Wee Scotch with George

Learning how to make summer rolls – this was a surprise as it was not on the formal itinerary from my travel agent!

One of the chefs brought out ingredients to make summer rolls and I didn’t pay much attention, as I’ve grown up making (and eating) summer rolls, and then…

Spring Roll Cooking Class
Spring Roll Cooking Class

…I noticed that the rice paper wrappers necessitated no rehydration in water (reminded me a little of the Bang Trang place we ate at in Saigon) – I guess that’s how fresh stuff in Vietnam is.  I wish I had gotten some close-ups of that rice paper!

Spring Roll Ingredients
Spring Roll Ingredients with that Amazing Rice Paper

From Hanoi to Halong Bay and the Next Stop? The city of Hue and hopefully some authentic Hue Noodle Soup known as Bun Bo Hue.

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  1. I have read all the articles in this section – each one of them are so engrossing – the photographs and your writing everything. It’s amazing how each place has it’s own flavour – but to capture it like this is not very easy. I wish your posts on Vietnam keeps pouring in.

    I am in love with Wee Scotch – and no I haven’t seen such a young sailor, nor have I seen someone looking so cute with a photoshopped leaf to cover one’s modesty! You are going to have it when he grows up! Thankfully all these posts will be happily dug deep inside your 2012 Archive – he wouldn’t dig so far:)

  2. Your posts are so colourful and interesting. I love reading your descriptions and the photos are stunning 🙂 Feels like taking the tour, and getting more and more excited about actually going there, thank you for all the insights 🙂
    Love the leaf and the look on wee scotch face, beautiful :))