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Limestone Dragons: Ha Long Bay

One of the natural wonders of the world. One of those places you see pictures of in encyclopedias as a child. One could call it a bay, but that wouldn’t really capture it. Ha Long Bay, in Vietnamese “descending dragon bay,” is one of those places that photos don’t do justice. Thousands of limestones gut into the sky out of the water as far as the eye can see. The clouds move low and the sun dances, creating shadows and different colors of light throughout the day.

Ha Long Bay is a heavily touristed spot. Only a few hours from Hanoi, there are plenty of tour agencies and hotels that will book you a cruise. We choose the Bai Tu Long Junk. Junks are the name of the regular wooden boats that cruise the bay. There are also luxury cruise ship boats. Old photos show beautifully painted boats, but a new government regulation changed all of this last year. Now, all tourist boats must be painted white. Our guide said he thought this change was implemented after several people drowned on a sketchy tour boat.

Because of the heavy inflow of tourists, there are plenty of boat vendors who paddle around and sell everything from bottled beer and wine to shells.

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