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Big Indochina Adventure – Days 24, 25 & 26: Ha Long Bay & Hanoi, Vietnam

We departed our hotel shortly after 8:00 AM for a three and a half hour drive to Ha Long Bay. I had been looking forward to Ha Long Bay for my entire trip as someone said that it doesn’t make sense to go to Vietnam if you don’t see Ha Long Bay!

We arrived to the port at about 11:45 AM and boarded a tender to our private junk boat. The boat was perfect for our group – it had a dining room/lounge, a roof deck and the cabins were perfect!

Within 15 minutes of boarding the boat, we were immersed in the beauty that is Ha Long Bay. The Vietnamese used to believe that it was caused by a dragon who descended into the bay and made all the rocks jut out of the water. The legend goes that the dragon became human and that all people from northern Vietnam are descendants from him!  The weather was a bit cloudy, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the scenery that is considered one of the new 7 Wonders of the World.

After a heavy seafood lunch, we all went kayaking in the bay for about 45 minutes. We explored a cave that became a giant harbor once you went through it. There were even monkeys living on the island, so we got to see them!

We then headed to Titop Island which had a viewpoint on the top of the mountain with a wonderful view of Ha Long Bay. I climbed up all 437 steps and the view was 100% worth it!  The climb was challenging, but I’m happy I did it!

Afer descending from the viewpoint, we boarded the boat for dinner. Again, it was primarily seafood, but I tried everything!

After dinner, we relaxed on the roof of the boat where we were treated to a view of dozens of boats docked for the night like ours.  It was a sight to see among the backdrop of Ha Long Bay. We also played a Battle of the Sexes game before retiring for the evening.

The following morning, we visited the Surprise Caves. Built into an island, the entrance was about 150 feet above sea level and brought us into a small cave that was pretty impressive. The formations of the rocks in the caves were beautifully lit up to enhance their beauty.

We then entered a second cave which was a bit larger.

The final cave we entered was definitely where the name “Surprise Caves” was derived. The third cave was so expansive and it must have been 2 or 3 football fields deep!  Again, everything was lit up with accent lighting to really bring out the beautiful aspects of each of the rock formations.

After the cave, we went back to the boat and headed back to the harbor. On our ride back, we had lunch which was not as seafood heavy as the previous two meals. Once we arrived back at the harbor, we boarded our bus and made it back to the hotel at around 3:30 PM.  I did some final souvenir shopping before meeting up with the group at 7:00 PM for dinner.

The restaurant we went to had an amazing atmosphere. It is called the Lantern Lounge and we literally dined under dozens of lanterns. Before arriving at our table, we all took our shoes off because we ate in the Japanese style – our table was low to the ground!

After dinner, six of us headed to a nightclub where we were surprised by one of our friends from the first part of our trip. He flew in to meet up with us for one final night!

The club was a lot of fun, but bittersweet because it is likely the final time all of us will be together at the same time.

The following morning, I caught a taxi to the airport with two other people from my trip at 8:00 AM.

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