Timmy, our Vietnamese guide/translator, organized a boat tour on Ha Long Bay for a group of us.
It was a perfectly sunny day, and we chugged gently out of the harbour with dozens of other boats in the morning. This is not the busy season here, but lots of boats were on the move giving tours.
Every boat has a dragon figurehead, connected to a legend about Ha Long Bay.
We puttered out through some of the 2,000 karsts in the bay, towards the “Surprise Cave”, where we climbed half way up the hill to enter a limestone cave. Very well organized; boats dropped us off at one dock, we followed a one-way path, leading through the cave and back to the pick up dock. This was the largest grotto I have ever been in; the main chamber was as big as the interior of a cathedral, with lots of air, and a pleasant ambient temperature.
At every point along the way, people had food or souvenirs for sale; not pushy, just available. Most interesting where the fish and seafood vendors along the loading docks.
We got into kayaks and paddled between the karsts for an hour. Fun to get some exercise, but not much opportunity to see much more than we could see from the big boat. That ride ended at a beach, where most of us tried out the swimming. Not perfectly clear sea water, but a gentle, warm temperature.