Halong Bay, Vietnam

Seeing Halong Bay in a video or photo is one thing, but experiencing it firsthand is unlike anything you could imagine. The UNESCO World Heritage site is closer to something you would see in the movie “Avatar” than something you have seen in real life.

We first arrived in Halong Bay on February 13th. After spending three days cruising through the bay we can honestly say it was the most beautiful place we have traveled to.

A fishing boat in Halong Bay with the sunset in the background

Valentine’s Day Weekend on the Oriental Sails Calypso Cruiser

Before we even left for Southeast Asia we knew we wanted to do something special for Valentine’s Day. However, because we didn’t plan out our destinations ahead of time, we had no way of knowing where we would be at the time.

It wasn’t until two weeks beforehand while we were in Pai, that we bought our tickets to Vietnam and could begin making arrangements for Valentine’s weekend. A trip to Halong Bay quickly came to mind as it was somewhere we both have been longing to experience in real life.

After a bit of research we realized the best way to see Halong Bay was to spend a few nights out in the bay on a cruise. In the end we booked a 3 day/2 night stay on the Calypso Cruiser, the mid-sized ship of the Oriental Sails fleet.

The bow of the Oriental Sails Calypso Cruiser sailing through Halong Bay
The Calypso Cruiser, a ship in the Oriental Sails fleet
The top deck of the Oriental Sails Calypso Cruiser
A cute dog laying near the captains quarters of the Oriental Sails Calypso Cruiser
A colorful sky as the sunsets in front of islands in Halong Bay Vietnam

The Islands of Halong Bay

The distinctive features of Halong Bay are it’s 1,950+ monoliths. Set across 1,553 square kilometers of turquoise waters, these massive limestone formations have been shaped by 500 million years of geological forces, such as erosion.

Five ships docked in Halong Bay Vietnam
The blue waters of Halong Bay with islands in the background
A boats wake causing ripples in the water of Halong Bay
Limestone Islands in the distance of Halong Bay
The sunsetting behind limestone islands in Halong Bay Vietnam

Local legend explains that the monoliths were originally a form of self-defense: for when the Jade Emperor called upon dragons to protect the Vietnamese people from attacks by sea. Responding to the call for help, the dragons flew down and spewed thousands of pearls into the sea which turned into the monoliths upon impact, helping to drive away invaders.

A fishing vessel cruising through Halong Bay Vietnam
A blue fishing boat in Halong Bay
Some of the thousand plus limestone islands in Halong Bay
An opening between two close islands in Halong Bay Vietnam

Activities with Oriental Sails

We were fortunate to have warm weather during our time in Halong Bay, as temperatures remained in the high 60’s to low 70’s (as opposed to the mid 50’s the week before). Because of this we were really able to enjoy the activities planned by Oriental Sails.

Our first day onboard the Calypso Cruiser we were able to kayak in the bay near Ban Chan beach. Later in the evening there was a happy hour with a cooking class, where we were taught how to make spring rolls. After dinner we spent a few hours on the deck of the Calypso Cruiser sharing travel stories with another American and two Irish girls.

A wooden day boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Four kayaks floating in Halong Bay while tied to an Oriental Sails boat
The private beach of Three Peaches Beach in Halong Bay
Unlike the day before when we shared the activities with 10 other passengers, we practically had a private charter on Valentine’s Day, as we shared the day boat with one other couple (because everyone else had booked a 2 day/1 night package). The activities included kayaking at the Dark and Light Cave, relaxing on a private beach named Three Peaches Beach, and visiting a pearl farm in one of the bay’s inlets.

Before leaving the following morning we were taken on one last activity to tour Thien Cahn Son cave. While it is not a large cave, it was interesting to be able to walk up one of the monoliths and learn more about how they formed.

Two orange kayaks laying onshore of Three Peaches Beach in Halong Bay
A wide angle view of Three Peaches Beach in Halong Bay
A guy climbing rocks at Three Peaches Beach in Halong Bay Vietnam
A girl from the Calypso Cruiser kayaking in Halong Bay Vietnam
People kayaking in Halong Bay Vietnam during a weekend with Oriental Sails
The Halong Bay Pearl Farm in Vietnam
A pearl laying in an open clam at the Halong Bay Pearl Farm
Woman seeding a pearl at the Halong Bay Pearl Farm

Last Stop Hanoi

Next Stop Koh Lanta