Hi guys! Today’s post is about a little more of my Vietnam trip but focusing in Ha Long Bay. I’m going to share with you my visit of this beautiful sightseeing experience on a junk boat tour. Ha Long Bay is near the city of Ha Long (Quang Ninh province) on the northwest of Vietnam. The area contains amazing limestone islands, emerald waters, rock formations and caves. You can take a cruise for 2-3 nights or a junk boat tour for a full day tour, which is the one we took. All junk boat tours are different, the one that we chose had transportation (3hrs bus from Hanoi), lunch and 2 options to choose from kayaking or bamboo boat ride.
The view is amazing with the limestones and majestic caves… however, I noticed the environment was highly compromised. The bay was overrun by tours with very little concern for waste and conservation. Despite of the environment feeling, we enjoyed the sightseeing, the formation of the rocky mountains where just beautiful. It is a very relaxing tour, although, I really think I would have enjoyed more going by cruise. Traveling by bus is like 3hrs going and then 3hrs back from Hanoi, which was tiring and my neck hurt… a lot. We had 2 stops to stretch up our legs and eat but by cruise is another experience in which you can go swimming, watch the sunset, enjoy the sightseeing trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, plus you can actually take your time exploring for those 2 or 3 nights in different islands. So if you have the time, I do recommend going to Ha Long Bay by boat cruise, it’s not too expensive unless you’d like the fancy luxurious ones. I have crew friends that have done it and they truly recommended as well.
The lunch was great, they served chicken, pork, rice, salad, drinks were not included though. The tour guide explained the limestones and islets names in which I honestly couldn’t understand nor see the formations from them. For instance the Stone Dogs; my friends and I laugh so hard because we were like “Where’s the damn dog!”. The guide tried to explain it to us, but we just couldn’t catch up. There’s a couple of other ones like Duck Island, Finger Island, Fighting Cocks Island (but my guide said chickens…) and Finger Island.
In an article published in the New York Times, reporter Laurence Obsborne described the world’s most exquisite chocolate bars which are made in a factory on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City called Marou as “The best chocolate you have never tasted” with beans that were hand-picked on a skinny strip of an island called Tan Phu Dong in the Mekong Delta, making Vietnamese chocolate unlike any other.
Marou’s chocolate has a particular complexity and variability, because unlike most chocolate makers, they can create theirs from beans they select carefully at the source. This means they have control of everything, from farm to bar. Therefore, their handmade chocolate products are more expensive than industrial ones, but the quality and flavour meet the needs of high-end markets in Vietnam and compete with international products.
Because of their culture history, I had basic knowledge of their coffee and cocoa seeds, however I was not aware of Marou chocolate. I started reading and searching for more information couple days before traveling of how pure and natural these chocolates were. Since I’m a chocolate lover and sweet tooth for pastries, I wrote down the location of Maison Marou shop and promised myself not to missed this place.
If you’re a chocolate lover or just looking for a place to relax, read while having a cup of coffee or tea at Ho Chi Minh city, this place is for you. Mind you, the chocolates are yes, quite expensive but the quality is totally worth it. Each chocolate has the percentage and it cost approximately $10.00 each, they also have cute gift boxes with a variety of chocolates, also individual mini bar chocolates and an exquisite variety of delicious pastry.
The staffs are very friendly, they introduce their chocolates, give you cocoa seed for taste as well as chocolate samples. The atmosphere is very relaxing, perfect to seat and take a nice cup of a hot creamy chocolate. The decor brings a charming environment that you’ll enjoy the shop from the moment you step in.
Vietnam has always been in my bucket list and still is. There’s so many places to visit and things to do that a week is not enough. At least you need 2 weeks to visit some main attractions, sightseeing and tours. Most places are far away depending on where you’re staying, for instance Hoa Lu and Tam Coc which are in the country side of Vietnam. In addition, also Sa Pa and its spectacular landscaping sightseeings and rice fields, Ha Long Bay by boat or the beautiful Ban Gioc and Datanla waterfalls, I can keep going all day. However, you can always enjoy Hanoi if you don’t have time to visit all other places, after all, Vietnam is big!
I met with 2 friends in Hanoi at the hotel that we booked that by the way, very cheap. Vietnam is very, very cheap! The hotel was (Splendid Holiday Hotel) not fancy, just nice location with breakfast included, just what we needed. I downloaded an app called Grab for transportation which works like Uber or even better. Once I arrived to the almost location, the driver was trying to explain me for about 7 minutes that the hotel was located inside these narrow streets that obviously cars can’t go through. But, I didn’t knew Vietnamese! I tried body language, pointing things with my hand, fingers, facial expressions… ugh! We just couldn’t communicate. Until I asked him like this: “Hotel-Map-Phone” while I was pointing him to the phone. He understood and searched on google maps the hotel, I took a photo with my phone and went walking with my luggage to the hotel which it wasn’t that far. Later, right after I arrived and meet with the girls, we went out to explore. We only took transportation when we really needed, despite the super hot weather, we walked to everywhere and enjoyed Vietnamese culture.
Our first stop was visiting the West lake where the One Pillar Pagoda is, which is regarded as one of Vietnam’s two most iconic temples. We also visit Trấn Quốc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi and The Vietnam Military History Museum.
One Pillar Pagoda
Today, this pagoda is like a temple for people to visit and pray if they want to have children. I did not, of course 😀 haha. But is a beautiful landscape to take photos, built on a single pillar to represent a lotus flower which is a symbol of purity in Buddhist culture.