Ha Long Bay is one of the most iconic areas of Vietnam; the name Ha Long means “descending dragon” and originates from the local legend of the land. It is believed that a Mother Dragon and her children were sent to protect the country from its northern invaders. In order to do this the dragon and her children sprayed the battlefield with fire and created a protective emerald wall; after thousands of years the emerald wall turned into islands and islets of differing sizes. To remember the help of the Mother Dragon and her children, the people who lived there named the bay where the Mother Dragon descended “Ha Long Bay” and the adjacent bay where her children descended “Bai Tu Long Bay”.
The beauty of the elegant limestone rock towers have made Ha Long Bay a huge attraction, and each day thousands of tourists board vessels bound for the bay. This has placed a huge strain on the environment, in particular the dumping of rubbish from irresponsible cruise boats into the water. Having read reviews of disappointed visitors on budget cruises describing the trash in the bay, we opted to visit the neighbouring Bai Tu Long Bay. Very few boats have permits to visit this area, making this a more expensive option, but we thought that in order to avoid the crowds and pollution it would be worth it. So on a sunny Saturday morning we boarded the “Dragon Legend” 5 star cruise boat for a 2 day, 1 night voyage.
We left the busy harbour and set off into the quiet waters of Bai Tu Long Bay, where the only other boats we saw were those of local fishermen. Despite the trip being relatively short, we managed to fit a lot in – exploring several of the islands by kayak, venturing into stalactite laden caves and swimming off a pristine white beach. The remainder of our time was spent on the boat, either in our luxurious living quarters or being served endless courses of delicious Vietnamese food in the dining room. It was an absolute privilege to see the Bay, and most of the time we were fortunate enough to have it all to ourselves.
Our trip to Bai Tu Long Bay was everything we hoped for and more, and was definitely 2 days worth pushing the budget for. We are now back in Hanoi where we are going to stay for the festive period.