Tag Archives: halong bay

Halong Bay : day two

20 Jun

On our second day in Halong Bay, Brian set his alarm for the crack of dawn to take pictures of the bay in the early morning light. I’m not usually one to wake up that early, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the bay at that hour. So I followed him up to the top deck and I am happy I did because it was worth it. It was so peaceful, all the other tour boats were still quiet and the emerald colored water was so still.

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When we came down, the crew was awake (and I think very surprised to see us) and hot coffee was ready. We both poured ourselves a cup of coffee and retreated to our room to hang out until breakfast was served. Not a bad view for morning coffee right?

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After breakfast James informed us that normally the whole group would board a smaller boat for the day to cruise to Lan Ha, a remote corner of the bay, but since we were the only guests staying on board for another night we would be getting a private tour for two. Clearly, some very good honeymoon luck, right? So we said our goodbyes to the group and boarded our boat for a day of fun.

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After an hour (it wasn’t the fastest boat I’ve ever been on) we arrived at Lan Ha and dropped anchor. Brian immediately jumped in the water for a swim, choosing to make that jump from the top deck.

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can you spot Brian?

can you spot Brian?

After our swim, our guide informed us it was time to get suited up in our orange life jackets again because she would be taking us on a tour of the surrounding caves. I had been on the fence about the whole cave thing when I had read about it on the itinerary. I am terribly claustrophobic but she assured me that the ones we would be going to would be large. So into the kayak I went. We were joined by two Serbian men from another boat. They were a riot and perfect companions for the adventure. They were even kind enough to snap photos of us since we didn’t have our camera with us.

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It’s true, the photos are rather blurry but at least we have them! After a few hours exploring the caves and attempting to spot monkeys on the islands, we were back on our little boat and headed for Three Peaches, where we would be spending the afternoon. When we arrived at Three Peaches, we dropped anchor again and  were served the most insane lunch. Seriously, it was a meal that could have easily fed a family of six but it was delicious.

After lunch we sunned ourselves for a bit before deciding to get back into the kayaks to make the short trip to shore to play on the beach and take a swim.

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The day was perfection from start to finish, made even better when we arrived back on the main boat and were informed that the new group that was supposed to be joining us on the boat cancelled.  This meant we had the whole thirty person boat and a crew of twelve to ourselves that night. WINNING. I mean, best honeymoon luck ever, right! Below is a picture that Brian snapped of me doing my happy dance once I heard the news.

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That evening they served us an elaborate four course seafood meal. It was hysterical having the whole dining room to ourselves and a waiter standing there for us. So this is how the other half lives, I thought. I could make this work.

After dinner we were both asleep again by eight. Ahhhhh, the joys of being on a honeymoon.

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ps….the photos that are beautiful and not iphone photos were shot by my super lovely and talented husband

Halong Bay : day one

9 Jun

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After a few exciting nights in Hanoi we made the four-hour trip to Halong Bay, located in northeastern Vietnam. We decided to book a group tour during our stay because we wanted to see as much as possible while staying on a boat for a few nights and the easiest way to ensure that, is to book a group tour. So we chose a two night/ three-day option aboard the L’ Azalee through Buffalo Tours.

So on our fourth morning in Vietnam, Buffalo Tours picked us up from our hotel in Hanoi. The second the crowded van pulled up thirty minutes late, I was reminded why I hate group tours. We climbed into the van and introduced ourselves to the other couples and filed into the back of the van into the only seat available: a middle seat. It was a tight squeeze, making the four-hour trip seem rather long; especially with the loud and obnoxious woman sitting in front of me. Why did we decide to do a group tour again? When we finally arrived at our destination, I was exhausted and my legs were drenched in sweat from being pressed against the hot leather seats.

We all piled out of the car and into the crowded boat dock. It was packed with tourists. PACKED. Clearly, many other people got the memo that Halong Bay was a “must see” when in Vietnam. Not surprising considering it has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site, twice.

We were greeted by a handsome young Vietnamese man, who went by the name of James (clearly, not his real name), our guide for the trip. He explained that we would be boarding a small boat that would take us to the L’ Azalee. Minutes later we were strapped in orange life jackets and heading out of the dock.

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My first impression of Halong Bay…beyond gorgeous but dear lord I hope there are fewer boats once we get out on the open water…because there were tour boats as far as the eye could see, making Halong Bay feel less magical than I had expected.
After a quick three-minute ride we were at our boat and all settling into our rooms. Our room was on the top floor and had huge windows that opened up onto the green waters. Now Halong Bay was starting to feel magical.

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After putting our bags down we were invited to the dining cabin for lunch, which consisted of four courses of various fresh seafood (winning). As we ate, we listened to James give a welcome speech. As he went through the itinerary, I was immediately struck by one sentence…”On this one night / two-day trip you will see a lot of Halong Bay”. Shit, we’re on the wrong boat. We are supposed to be on the two night / three-day boat. Now what.

Brian and I nervously glanced at each other and just as I was about to stand up and say, “Thanks for the free seafood!” James informed us that we did indeed have a three-day tour, but the that the others had only booked one night and would be leaving tomorrow but more would be joining. PHEW, I thought, as I took another bite of shrimp.

On the itinerary after lunch..kayaking through the limestone islands. Despite not being a fan of kayaking (it all comes back to my fear of the ocean), I put a big smile on my face…because one, Brian had a huge one plastered on his and two, I wanted to get closer to those limestone islands and I knew that that beat up red kayak was my ticket.

Halong Bay literally translates to “dragon descending”, a name steeped in local legend. The story goes that a heavenly celestial dragon and her offspring were ordered by the Jade Emperor to halt an invasion from the sea. So to stop the invasion, the dragons spewed out bits of jade and jewels that turned into the islands that are there today.

So off we went in our red kayak and bright orange life jackets.

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The limestone formations were like nothing I had ever seen before. They looked so majestic protruding from the clear water. It was so eerily quiet as we kayaked through that it felt like we were the only  people on earth. Actually, I kept telling Brian that I was sure a huge dinosaur was about to appear on one of the islands…the scene was straight out of Jurassic Park.

The other thought that kept crossing my mind as we floated through the islands…what is there ever to be sad about when things like this exist in the world?

Once back on the boat we had a few hours to swim, nap or sun bathe before dinner. For Brian and I this consisted of having a cold Tiger beer on the upper deck while sitting in the fleeting sun.

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At dinner that evening Brian and I were given our very own romantic table for two, while the others sat at a big table together. The perks of being on a honeymoon. The evening was rather mellow. We had big plans of going squid fishing at 10pm but instead were both asleep by 9pm….

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let the adventure begin!

24 Apr

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Sorry I have been MIA this last week. I’ve felt like a chicken with my head cut off (is that how the saying even goes?) trying to wrap everything up before we leave for a month. A MONTH- I still can’t wrap my head around that. I’ve never traveled for that long. So excited. I spent yesterday running a million errands and beautifying (it is my honeymoon and all). It seems like everything is in order. Bills are paid for the month, Frank’s schedule with his various watchers is in place (he’s staying one week with his lovely dog walker, two weeks with my mom and one week with Brian’s parents), bags are packed (well, mostly) & our travel itinerary is locked.

I plan on blogging every few days from each destination unless it becomes impossible. Hopefully I will check-in in a few days from Hanoi, Vietnam!

Follow along on instagram (@kate365) in the meantime!

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bali…bali…BALI!

19 Mar

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(photo via Hither & Thither)

I have wanted to go to Bali forever. Well, maybe ever since I watched the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”…kidding…kinda. In all seriousness though…Julia Roberts made Bali look magical and I am hellbent on getting a reading from Ketut, the medicine man in the movie. I’m sure Brian just read that and rolled his eyes. Don’t worry babe…I won’t force you to get a reading from Ketut…I promise.

We have the first half of our honeymoon in Vietnam planned out- on April 24th we fly from LA to Ho Chi Minh (with a layover in Tokyo). We stay in Ho Chi Minh for five days before we head to Halong Bay for a three-day boat trip. When we return from the bay we will then fly to Hanoi which is located in southern Vietnam for another five days before we fly to Bali (with a layover in Kuala Lumpur…don’t even get me started about my current anxiety over flying on Malaysia Airlines through Kuala Lumpur after recent developments. You could say that I am slightly obsessed with the missing plane. Brian probably just read that and thought…slightly?????) Anyways, then we have twelve days in Bali! We still haven’t figured out how to break up our time there yet. I’m thinking half in Ubud (inland Bali) and half sitting on a beach doing absolutely nothing.

I was researching Bali this morning and stumbled upon a Bali Travelogue on the blog Hither & Thither (which I am now obsessed with) and her pictures of Ubud left me speechless. I’m already in love with Bali and have decided we must stay at this villa while there.

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inspiration photos: halong bay

12 Mar

This past weekend Brian and I put the finishing touches on our Vietnam itinerary and I am getting SO damn excited for our honeymoon. We leave next month! One of the things I am most excited for is our three-day boat trip with Buffalo Tours through Vietnam’s Halong Bay- Halong translates to ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, According to local legend, the Vietnamese had to ward off invaders when they began to develop their country. To assist them in defending their land, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. The jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay and linked together to form a wall against the invaders. Magically, the numerous rock mountains appeared in the sea ahead of the invaders’ ships, and the boats struck the rocks and each other. After winning the battle, the dragons chose to live a peaceful life on Earth and made their home in this bay. The place where the mother dragon descended was named Ha Long.

Don’t you just love that story?

For three days Brian and I will sleep on a small 12 cabin wooden junk (boat) and float around the jade bay exploring caves, swimming at different beaches, kayaking & eating fresh seafood from the floating markets.

And from the looks of pictures…it seems like it is going to be a magical few days.

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