Sail through emerald waters, kayak through ancient grottos and catch some rays on white, white sands
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Thousands of limestone mountains, topped with lush tropical jungle, jaggedly project out of clear, emerald waters. Halong Bay looks like the computer generated backdrop to a James Cameron movie. It’s breathtakingly beautiful with junk boats carving lines in the tranquil bay as sunset colours bounce of the water.
For centuries Halong bay has been a muse for poets and painters. People have flocked here to see this natural wonder and, while there might be a few more tourists and a lot more boats today, it still has retained its sense of wonder. It’s easy to while away a few days in Halong Bay watching sunsets and absorbing the 20-million-year-old karsts.
The Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin is very near the Chinese border and the thousands of natural caves and grottos that today witness tourist visits, used to be bases for pirates and smugglers to hide and transport their booty. Many of these caves are open to the public, well illuminated and provide guided tours that can help point our various rock formations that look invariably like roaring lions, entwined lovers or Buddha sitting in uncomfortably looking poses. The rocks may have some wonderful mythological tales but it’s the incredibly natural beauty that inspire us.
Sung Sot Cave is one of the biggest cave networks and the views from Pelican cave are stunning. Take a boat or, if you’re feeling brave, kayak through the Dark and Bright Cave, where you’ll dodge stalactites and hear bats preparing for the evening hunt above you. All but 40 of the islands are uninhabited and the fishing villages and farmers that do live on these isolated outcrops have hardly changed their living habits for centuries.