Posted by: travelrat | August 25, 2020

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay: 21/22 November 2019

There are quite a few places in the world you can see impressive limestone pillars. We saw some at Yangshuo, in China, where I threw open the curtains in our hotel room on our first morning, and beheld a sight that made me wish I was forty years younger, and had some climbing equipment to hand. Instead, I just reached for my camera.

Similar formations are to be found off the coast of Thailand, but towering up from the sea, rather than land. I believe these were the inspiration for the ‘flying islands’ in the film Avatar. However. I haven’t seen these, so I can’t make any comparisons with Ha Long Bay.

The magic word here is karst, which I hesitate to use, because it also covers caves, underground rivers, limestone pavements and other formations associated with limestone country. You’ll find details … sometimes, too many details … of how they were formed in Wikipedia, or on the National Geographic website. I think I prefer the folk-tale of how they were formed by a dragon spitting pearls at an invading fleet. And, as anyone who’s watched Game of Thrones can tell you … if you mess with dragons, it rarely ends well!

Quite a flotilla of ships left the dock this morning, and I feared that, after all that I had heard about the bay, it would just turn out to be another tourist-ridden hot spot. Not a bit of it, Each ship went its separate way, and the bay was big enough to absorb them all. So, for two days, we were able to just relax, enjoy the old-world ambience of the Emeraude, and just drink in the ever-changing scenery.

Of course, I’m not going to let it go with a few words, which, once again, are so inadequate. There will be pictures and video in the coming weeks!


  1. Yes, Ha Long is magical, especially in the very early morning when the mist is rising on the sea – as it was when we were there. I think these are similar to those in Thailand. The limestone karsts around Krabi are fantastic especially when you sail into the ‘hongs’ as I did (when I was much younger as you have to lie flat on your back in a canoe to avoid having your head split open as you sail under the rock and into the lagoons). I look forward to your video.

    • I have heard about the ones in Thailand but never seen them. I believe one of the James Bond films was made there?

      • Yes, but if you go there don’t go to James Bond Island as it’s chock full of tourisrs. There are many more lovely Hongs and Karsts around which you can visit by taking a long-boat. Such a pity I never took photos when I was there – about 30 years ago – but I was so bowled over by the majesty of the place that taking pix seemed an intrusion into the magic.

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