HA LONG BAY, Vietnam – Even if we hadn’t already spent a week in the bustle and hustle of Hanoi, the mist-shrouded limestone peaks of Ha Long Bay, echoing birdcalls and the water lapping our ship would have been enchanting.
But by the time we arrived at this UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin, we badly needed a break from Hanoi’s mad motor-scooter traffic, the swarming pineapple vendors and the ceaseless capitalist hustle.
Three days of swimming, kayaking and just chilling on the deck of the Dragon’s Pearl, with drink in hand, were the ideal respite and one of the high points of our two-week trip to Vietnam in October.
You can see similar limestone towers in other parts of Vietnam; in Guilin, China; and in Thailand. But their number here – nearly 2,000 of these mini-peaks dot the bay’s 621 square miles – makes this place astonishing. On the bay, the towers, which some call the eighth natural wonder of the world, are all you can see in any direction.
Legend has it that long ago a celestial dragon appeared to protect the Vietnamese from foreign invaders….