The journey begins in typical Asian style. It is a three and a half hours drive by car from the capital Hanoi to the legendary Halong Bay, of course, including a shopping stop halfway. They offer embroidered pictures, hand-painted plates and more or less original guidebooks.
Arriving at the port, a warm welcome with the obligatory “cold towel” for refreshmen was waiting for me. Two guys play the drums and I go onboard the ‘Au Co 2′ – my swimming hotel for the next three days. With a bright smile, a sympathetic Vietnamese holds a sign that says ‘Au Co 2′ , so that no one really gets on the wrong ship.
Anyone who thinks a cruise through Halong Bay will take place on the classic brown boats with their large sails, is wrong. Today the ships must bei painted in bright white for safety reasons a local governor decided a few years ago. My cabin is absolutely amazing. Lots of dark wood, a large window front with a balcony and a very sumptuous bathroom– perfect!
Suddenly the ‘Au Co 2′ starts and I run to the sun deck, so as not to miss the starting maneuvers. The white ship is heading for the thousands of rock pinnacles of the Halong Bay. Since 1994 it is a world heritage site by UNESCO. “The name ‘Vinh Ha Long’ stands for the bay of the subducting dragon“, the cruise manager Truong Cong Tung (he can be simply called “Tung”) translates. “The legend tells that a giant dragon had a battle against the enemies of Viet–people and destroyed the country. When he dived back into the sea, the water rose up and left only some crags, ‘explains the young Vietnamese.
In the early evening the first cruise event starts on deck – a spring roll battle! “One, two, three, go!” As soon as the starting signal sounds, I start rolling (in the middle of two competitors) as quick as possible the dough around a mix of fish, carrots and bean sprouts. After a few seconds the young man next to me triumphantly holds his spring roll with a stretched arm in the air. He has won! But today fortunately not only time counts but also the quality is important. “This looks good, but in this round Germany has the edge,” decides Tung and puts my perfect rolled appetizer into the boiling hot wok. Proudly I watch my spring roll sizzling in the oil. New game, new luck – the next passengers start the challenge at the ‘Au Co 2′. With pleasure I nibble at my first self-rolled spring roll and look at the next little competition. In the background the sun sinks slowly behind the myriad of limestone cliffs at the Halong Bay in northeastern Vietnam.
The Halong Bay is specially mystical in the early morning. A little tired I draw the curtains aside and watch the mysterious hills passing by the panoramic windows. Fog is still enveloping the bizarre limestone cliffs and only the rising sun is able to distribute the concealing gray. Suddenly I see some colorful, floating wooden houses in front of steep crags – we have reached the floating village Vung Vieng.
In typical basket boats women row some vacationers through the colorful fishing village, children and dogs are watching over from the pontoons across. The men are now working on the pearl farm on the outskirts of Vung Vieng. An elementary school is there as well as a community center, a tiny shop can be reached by boat. Even the smallest kids row easily over the water from one house to the next.
The three-day cruise itinerary is fully packed. In the afternoon we visit the huge cave world of Sung Sot with their age-old stalactites and stalagmites, another stop leads to the island of Cat Ba with a mountain bike tour and jungle trekking.
Between the trips I always enjoy the unique view from the sun deck. Under umbrellas and palms I relax on wicker chairs, while the rocky peaks slowly passes by.
On the last night tour assistant Tung again invites to a competition. At the railing he gives us small fishing poles and lures some fish with a strong flashlight. We try squid fishing! But when my first catch wildly sprays his ink, I give the fishing pole frantically to a little boy and enjoy the prepared fish in the ‘Au Co 2′ restaurant.
Further information:Lotus Travel Service www.lotus-travel.com
This text has been translated to the best of my knowledge into English.
Note: This trip was supported by Lotus Travel Service. The report represents our own opinions.