“How does it look up there?”
“Breathtaking” – it took approximately 20 minutes of ascending the 427 steps to arrive at the viewing deck on Dao Ti Top Island, one of the highest peaks in Ha Long Bay where most promotional pictures of the UNESCO World Heritage Site were taken. From here, travellers get to witness the wondrous 360-degree view of interesting sculptural work of nature comprising over 1,969 islands in various forms scattered all around, making it a great destination for landscape photography for avid photographers.
But to us, something remarkable always happens when we step into nature as we put down our superficial glasses and take up the observer’s binoculars instead, opening our curious eyes wider to the beautiful details that often taken for granted by today’s society. Ha Long Bay is one such place, majestically spectacular that seems dreamlike and far removed that it just sweeps us off our feet. Of course, there are interesting legends that the locals would regale you about how the bay is formed, but the spectacular seascape of limestone pillars are actually the result of the limestone bedrock that have dissolved over the course of millennia. Limestone typically dissolves in mild carbonic acid commonly found in the form of natural rain water. In tropical areas such as Ha Long Bay, vegetation emits more carbon, conducive for the creation of a more intense karst landscape. Ha Long Bay is in fact one of the best examples of mature karst topography in the world.
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Almost all islands here, habited and inhabited, are rocky and have countless number of caves. The Dao Ti Top Island is the most visited island of them all, where visitors can swim, trek through the lush tropical greenery, skydive, kayak or even chill out at the restaurants or bars. But I suggest that travellers make the time to visit the dramatic-looking Dau Go cave, created as a result from a complex geological process that began 700,000 years ago. It is situated 21m above the sea level and composed of three chambers characterised by striking stalagmites and stalactites. The first chamber is the largest; the second chamber contains mineral formations that are as imposing as colossal statues; while the third one is slightly darker and mysterious. In 1957, President Ho Chi Minh visited Dau Go cave and said, “No visitor can convey the beauty of its scenery, so everybody should visit the cave to enjoy its beauty, themselves.”
The vast majority of travellers also come to Ha Long Bay for cruising. There are two popular options: a day cruise and an overnight cruise. Day cruises are often short and hurried, but they include the must-sees of Ha Long Bay and a well-prepared fresh seafood lunch on a wooden junk while sailing across the sea. Overnight cruises, on the other hand, allow travellers to buy more time in discovering the bay. They also typically involve more activities on the beaches and cocktail parties in the evening in addition to fancy rooms, dinners on board, visits to caves and island-hopping.
When planning a cruise trip in Ha Long Bay, do carefully consider the timing of your visit because bad weather affects visibility especially from December to February. March to June tends to get overly crowded, while July to September is considered as the low season. Moreover, take note that most cruise packages are not inclusive of drinks – do not be surprised if you find yourself paying additional charges during meal times for a glass of water. Just be sure to check with the cruise operator in advance. The rates of the cruise packages start from VND220,000 per person.
For more information on Ha Long Bay Cruise Packages, visit www.halongbaytours.com.
Gaya Travel expresses our heartfelt gratitude to One Publishing Sdn. Bhd. and Victoria Tourism Group for allowing us to be a part of this eye-opening trip to Ha Long Bay.
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 11.2. Read the whole magazine for free HERE.