The highlight of my journey through the historic cities of Vietnam was the UNESCO Site and natural wonder of Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. Just a four-hour drive east of the capital city of Hanoi, Halong Bay drew me into a magical setting of 3,000 limestone islands, formed from sea deposits millions of years ago, jutting out of emerald waters. However, legend tells how a dragon’s flailing tail carved out these magnificent islets.

The wooden junk, Indochina Sails, glides past limestone islands jutting from emerald waters in Halong Bay. (Beverly Mann)

Our group stayed overnight on a junk, or large wooden boat, which appeared to glide along the bay as we relaxed on board while viewing awesome grottoes and caves. As we toured through one cave, I was amazed by the massive stalactites carved by the water over millions of years and the spaciousness of the tunnels, which made this cave appear more like a fantasy underworld—a la “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Later, the group donned bathing suits and joyfully jumped into the cool, clear waters as a relief from the heat.

During the next morning’s breakfast, I savored the fresh, sweet taste of pineapple and papaya on my palate, which was enough to energize me for the return trip back to Hanoi.

As I gazed out at the diamond-sparkling waters, I realized how grateful I was to be far away from any remembrances of war, the whizzing of motor bikes, and the frenetic city life. All was so peaceful and calm amid Mother Nature’s creative sculptures and landscape.

(Source: - Beverly Mann)

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