LWSY Vietnam > Exploring Halong Bay with Emeraude Boat Tours

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In 1994, Halong Bay was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has also been shortlisted as one of the world’s new Seven Natural Wonders. The myths lie side by side with scientific evidence suggesting that prehistoric Soi Nhu people lived in Halong Bay as early as 18,000 BC, followed by the Cai Beo, till 5,000 BC.

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Few places rival the natural beauty and serenity of Vietnam’s Halong Bay. It’s name meaning Descending Dragon. A reflection of the ancient legend that describes the fire-breathing beasts saving Vietnam from ocean invaders.

It was their thrashing tails, jewels and jade they used as missiles that are said to have combined to form the 1,960 islets. That’s quite a myth, and as I began to share with friends that we were heading to Vietnam, Halong Bay was a ‘must see’ even though we were short on time.

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We chose Emeraude Boat Tours. The company can arrange to collect you from various locations in Hanoi, however we took a private car transfer which took around 4 hours straight from Hanoi Airport. We landed from Paris around 6am (our luggage didn’t) and set off for a rather hair-raising car journey to the coast via somewhere to by at least flip flops and a tooth brush in absence of our rucksacks. The traffic is insane leaving Hanoi, I advise look out of the passenger window, not straight ahead.

Dozens of replica steam liners bob around the bay daily, with overnight tours to have you see some of the sights around the magical islets in a super compact excursion, the perfect start to our short 10 day adventure.

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As you board the Emeraude you’re welcomed on deck with a glass of something before being invited to your cabin. With various categories the interior is charming, with a compact en-suite with a great shower and all the amenities you need (we needed them all without our luggage). Breakfast, lunch and dinner are buffet style, offering international and local fare. You gobble lunch pretty quickly before being ushered onto their tenders to take you on your first excursion.

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After lunch we headed to a local pearl farm, with a tour around some of the islets in traditional Vietnamese boats. With scores of other tourists around it was still a magical site to see.  We passed by a floating village, inhabited by several hundred people who spend most of their existence living on the water. An extraordinary site to see. These beautiful colourful houses just bobbing on the water, connected to their neighbours by just a rope and anchor.

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Learning how the farm cultivate the pearls

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You can also take a canoe out for an hour once the boat anchored. Such a peaceful pleasure before the sun set. You can see the sky was incredibly moody mid afternoon but as the sun set the sky cleared for a beautiful sunset.

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Halong Bay has been a backdrop for countless movies including the Oscar-winning French epic, Indochine which they showed on a projector screen on the top deck after dinner.

With a local beer on deck before dinner, most guests kept to themselves in the restaurant, before heading to their cabins or to watch the movie upstairs. Jet lag got the best of us that night so we were early to bed in our beautiful cabin.

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I was up with the first light, and on the top deck watching the sunrise whilst others took part in the daily tai chi class. After a simple breakfast we were back in the tender to visit the caves.

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We all piled into the tender attached to our cruiser and headed for the 50 steep stone steps leading up to the entrance.

We wandered around the 10,000 square meters of this cavern dubbed this space “Grotte des Surprises”, or Surprise Cave. Situated on Bon Ho Island, right in the heart of Halong Bay.

The caves feature thousands of stalactites and stalagmites. Paths, lights and signposts guide you through twists and turns. Just be first in line so you don’t have your fellow guests in all your shots!

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So there you have it, a pretty speedy tour around Halong Bay. My memories shall be that of misty, atmospheric and mysterious place. To watch that sunset on our first night in Vietnam was something that will stay with me forever.

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We travelled to Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines (who reunited us with our luggage 36 hours after we landed) and booked our boat tour directly through their website.

To book your own cabin on board the Emeraude Boat Tour just click here.

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