Posts Tagged ‘nature

29
Apr
19

Vietnam: Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise


Ha Long Bay is one of the eight UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites in Vietnam. It was our main destination when we visited Vietnam for the first time.  To reach Ha Long Bay, we passed through the capital city of Hanoi as our initial gateway to the mind-blowing group of about 1,600 limestone islets. We spent overnight in Hanoi in a charming hotel and with the help of the hotel staff we arranged an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay.

DSC_0408The following day we were picked up at our Hanoi hotel by the tour bus that would take us to Bai Chay port in around three hours for the 150 km trip. The tour company that we chose was Halong Phoenix Cruiser.

 

DSC_0417We waited at the Bai Chay port departure area until we were told to take a small boat that would take us to the cruise boat.

 

 

CSC_0410My wife and I were more than ready for our first cruise together in this side of the world.

 

 

DSC_0416Here she is, our awesome, English-speaking tour guide, Trần Hồng Hạnh. Let the cruise begin!

 

DAY 1

DSC_0425 2The small boat took us to the area where small wooden boats were docked on the bay.

 

 

DSC_0430We reached the wooden boat that would be our home for the next two days.

 

DSC_0461The wooden boat’s main deck was designed to have a hallway around the private rooms and common areas. There were no private balconies.

 

 

DSC_0434This was our room with a private bathroom.  I believe all the rooms were similarly designed only differing in sizes.

 

 

DSC_0432Shown here is the dining area…..

 

 

DSC_0455…with the must-have bar!

 

 

DSC_0473We spent some time in the bow of the boat and took some snapshots.

 

 

DSC_0476Can you see in the background the thumb up islet?

 

DSC_0471Going up one level higher…

 

DSC_0479…..is the relaxation area that has a a few dining tables and some lounge chairs.

 

 

To An Island On Kayak

DSC_0376Around mid-afternoon, we were all dropped off in a kayak station and we were released to the kayaks in pairs.

 

 

CSC_0396 2Our mission was to row to a nearby island.  For kayaking first timers like us we had a hard time making a straight and smooth sail and the nearby was too far away! However, it was  an absolute fun to try kayaking for the first time! We did not need to drop those paddles as they ‘re worth $20!

 

 

DSC_0377Finally, we reached the correct island after five years! Ha ha! We got off from the kayak and were told to take a short rest after which we were free to do whatever we wanted: climb up the island for a stunning view of Ha Long Bay,  swim and laze on the beach or simply just relax at the resting area sipping a drink being sold at small stores lining up the area.

 

 

DSC_0382We decided to hike just halfway to the mountaintop to get this view.

 

 

DSC_0378Even in a gloomy weather the view of the towering karst islands far beyond as our eyes could see were so overwhelming.

 

 

DSC_0391After spending some time at the high viewing point we decided to descend back to the beachfront where we just watched the crowd at the beach and sipped some cold drinks. Then it was time to go back to the boat and refresh ourselves.

 

 

Dinner

DSC_0454Still reeling from the constant circling of our kayak, we finally diverted our attention to our dinner being served at the dining area starting with healthy salads.

 

 

DSC_0505_2One of seafood was uniquely set and we had a wide selection of beer too.  I chose Singapore’s Tiger beer.

 

 

DSC_0504_2One of the main dishes served was the hearty, deep-fried, breaded meat.

 

 

DSC_0457Exotic fruits like rambutans were also served.

 

 

DSC_0501Suddenly, it was evening!  After dinner we spent some time at the upper level of the boat having some drinks and then we called it a night.  Overall we had a very relaxing and peaceful sleep only awakened twice by some noise probably by flying creatures around the area.

 

 

DAY 2

DSC_0512_2Wakey, wakey! It is the second cruise day! After spending time at the tiny bathroom, we proceeded to the dining area to see an exciting breakfast waiting for us. Just as we discovered in Hanoi two days earlier, the venerable Vietnamese “pho” is available even during breakfast.

A Majestic Cave

DSC_0518_2After a relaxed breakfast, the boat sailed farther south passing mysterious fog-covered karst islands.

 

 

DSC_0588We arrived at our destination after around thirty minutes. We had to get off the boat and follow a wooden walkway to the entrance of…..

 

 

DSC_0527_2….Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprises)!

 

 

DSC_0539_2 2We climb around 100 steps and got inside through a narrow entrance leading…..

 

 

 

DSC_0541_2 2…to what looked like its main lobby.  To the right side is the narrow flight of stairs that took us deep inside the chambers of the cave.

 

 

DSC_0559The massive cave is well-lighted with different colors.  This is what they call a light show inside the cave.

 

 

DSC_0556_2The interior can be eerie at times but mostly I was in awe.

 

 

DSC_0555_2The lights definitely helped create a better visual effect inside the cave compared with no lights at all.

 

 

DSC_0567I have disliked caves before but this experience changed my mindset about caves wherein inside this breathtaking natural phenomenon pathways were clearly marked and lighted and the place was not …..

 

 

DSC_0558_2…….claustrophobic. You can see how this is one heck of a majestic cave with a 30-meter high ceiling and 500-meter long passage.

 

 

DSC_0569The cave covers a staggering 10,000 square meters of which its larger cavern can accommodate up to 1,000 people.

 

 

DSC_0563It was an amazing experience touring the cave which is just one of the caves in Ha Long Bay but is considered the largest and the most beautiful.  Thanks to the lights too!

 

 

 

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As we exited the cave chambers, we were taken back to the same area where we entered the cave.  It was a high viewing point overlooking the bay.

 

 

DSC_0590_2As we walked back to the boat we noticed some small boats selling food and all.

 

 

Lunch and A Cooking Lesson

DSC_0599_2As soon as we were back in the wooden boat, we were ushered to the dining are where our tour guide and one of the boat staff prepared us for the next exciting activity. We would be making Vietnamese spring rolls that would be a part of our lunch menu.

 

DSC_0596_2We were provided the steps and the list of ingredients.

 

 

DSC_0593The ingredients were already prepared and we just had to mix them.

 

 

DSC_0598Here’s the final mixture of the ingredients before wrapping and making them into tiny spring rolls.

 

 

 

 

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Everyone enjoyed the activity as the mixture were wrapped before deep- frying them.

 

 

Back to the Mainland

DSC_0613After lunch, the boat sailed for the mainland.

 

 

DSC_0633_2 2We did not have any other activities anymore except to immerse for the last time in the amazing scenery around the bay.

 

 

DSC_0614_2We passed by the kissing rooster and hen islets.

 

 

DSC_0625Certainly, my wife and I enjoyed the short cruise. There were other cruise options spending more nights on the bay with added activities like beach BBQ, visiting fishing villages and more but our schedule only allowed us to take the 2 days/1 night cruise which was already enough to see the bay.

 

 

DSC_0609_2This was my last shot of Ha Long Bay that I took as we neared the mainland. Tạm biệt (goodbye) Ha Long for now!

 

 

DSC_0637_2It was mostly overcast days and at short times it was raining when we were in Ha Long Bay.  It was summertime but during the season lasting from May to September, one can expect some rainy days and even typhoons. The best times to visit is during the months of April and May (spring) & September and October (fall).

Even in a not-so-good weather, Ha Long Bay indeed impressed me primarily due to the overwhelming and sheer abundance of those spectacular limestone islands. I love nature and the place was a sight to behold at any angle and at any time of the day. I am not sure though about the emerald water which appeared a bit murky if it clears up on sunny days. Also I have shockingly noticed a number of times plastic garbage floating in the “protected” area. Maybe irresponsible visitors, maybe not. I hope the proper authorities have already done something about it when we come back during its best season.

02
Jul
17

U.S.: Breathtaking Bryce Canyon


The Bryce Canyon National Park, a spectacular reserve of deep red, spire-shaped rock formations in southern Utah, was part of a number of stops my family took as we traveled by road from Phoenix to beautiful Sedona to the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks and onward to Las Vegas to cap our family day.

We arrived at our Bryce Canyon hotel way past midnight after spending a late afternoon stop at the Grand Canyon to tour members of my family who have not seen the canyon yet.  Most of us agreed to wake up early the next day to catch a glimpse of the stunning Bryce Canyon ampitheatre at sunrise. Three of us made it. Only the men.

 

sedona6One of the perks of experiencing the prime viewing sunrise time of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater is you won’t pay the park entrance. You can enter the park and the counter is not yet open for the day.

 

 

10369_13360_Inspiration_Point_Bryce_Canyon_Park_lg.jpgWith a lot of possible viewing points, I chose Inspiration Point (yes, over Sunrise Point, Sunset Point and Bryce Point) to experience sunrise at the Bryce Canyon amphitheater. From the hotel staff to internet reviews, everyone would always recommend Inspiration Point. Indeed, the amazing point did not disappoint.

 

 

DSC_0287From the parking lot it was just a few steps to the base of the amphitheater enclave.  We ascended to the first level where we could already catch a glimpse of the crimson spires.  I have never read from any article on the web that this was as easy as I could imagine to get a spectacular view of the amphitheater.  I thought we needed to hike miles to be in the best vantage point.  Later I learned that hiking would be for those who would want to come closer and face to face with the hoodoos following established trails.

 

bryce8My father, who is almost 80 years old, stayed at the first level taking videos and photos.

 

 

DSC_0286My brother and I climbed up to the highest viewing platform of Inspiration Point.  The experience from there was simply awesome.

 

 

Here is the video that I took as the sun rose in the east.  I was lost for words.

 

 

DSC_0276Facing east, these are the hoodoos on the left side zoomed in.

 

 

DSC_0275This is the less crimson, nonetheless still splendid right side when facing east.

 

 

DSC_0277Down toward the center you can see trails where people are allowed to walk and climb the buttes.

 

 

DSC_0279Another angle of the spectacular area.

 

 

DSC_0283Another shot of the more stunning  right side.

 

 

IMG_6658What an awesome experience it was!

 

 

bryce2This has been one of my top five travel experiences so far! Simply awesome!

 

Bryce9From left that is my brother, my father and me as we prepared to leave the Bryce National Park.

 

 

BryceLater in the day just as we were leaving for Zion National Park, the ladies finally decided to visit the viewing points.  From left is my wife, who is carrying our 6-month old Ava in the womb, my awesome mother and then my two beautiful sisters. If blessed with a clear sunny day, an almost midday photo shoot would be simply breathtaking.

 

 

Bryce6Their decision gave me and my wife and our 9-month old daughter to have this photo near the park entrance.

 

 

where to stay

Staying overnight is recommended if one wants to experience the prime viewing times of either sunrise or sunset at the amphitheater. There are so many options for lodging and most hotels would be in one area which is  just near the the park entrance.  Only one hotel is inside the park but I do not think it really matters a lot because the park entrance and the viewing points are just less than 10 minutes drive away from the hotels outside the park.

Bryce-View-Lodge-Sunset-feI have chosen Bryce View Lodge as our sleeping quarters for the overnight stay as we only needed…..

 

 

bryce-canyon-hotel2……the basic rooms.

 

 

hotelWe got the rooms in the lower level shown above.  Parking space is directly in front of the rooms.

 

 

bryce-hotelBy staying at Bryce View Lodge guests gain access to all facilities across the street at the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn.

• Free wireless high-speed internet in lobby and conference center.
• Guest laundry. 6:30 am – 10:00 pm
• Business center
• Free airport shuttle
• Complimentary on-site parking
• Indoor pool and whirlpool

The lodge was inexpensive, basic and the staff was great.

bonus: red canyon national park

redcanyon5On our way to the Zion National Park and onward to Las Vegas, the Red Canyon National Park would be on our way and we took a quick stop to gaze at the red rocks and all.

 

 

redcanyon4We had to stop at the gorgeous red rocks.

 

 

redcanyon3My sisters enjoyed the stop too!

 

 

redcanyon1What a journey it had been.  Yes an incredible thumb up for an extraordinary display of nature!




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