MAGNIFICENT LANDSCAPE: The breathtaking view over Halong Bay from Sung Sot Cave.
MAGNIFICENT LANDSCAPE: The breathtaking view over Halong Bay from Sung Sot Cave. Jann Burmester

Tour nature's wonder land

THE putt-putt of a small boat engine breaks the early morning silence as the tai chi instructor moves gracefully on the deck.

I'm supposed to be following Luan's moves but I'm distracted by the sheer beauty that surrounds me.

Nearly 1800 towering limestone outcrops and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

I'm in Halong Bay, Vietnam's jewel in its crown, and today the bay is shining brightly.

Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, Halong Bay, which translates as "where the dragon descends into the sea”, attracts 2000 visitors every day.

Seven hundred tourist boats ply its stunning waterways - 400 overnight boats and 300 day boats and even though I'm surrounded by dozens of boats and hundreds of people, I could be in my own magical water world.

The tai chi lesson over, I'm directed downstairs to the dining room, which boasts bird's-eye views of the bay's breathtaking landscape.

I'm on a two-day/one-night stay on a traditional junk boat operated by Glory Legend Cruises and I'm welcomed aboard with huge smiles from the friendly crew.

I'm shown to my well-appointed room, which has a small balcony - perfect for taking in those breathtaking views.

The Glory legend Halong Bay.
The Glory legend Halong Bay. Contributed

We set sail, passing the most beautiful and quiet areas of the bay, including Dog Stone Islet, Fighting Cock, Soi Sim Beach and Coconut Three Island.

We feast on a five-course lunch, all the while soaking in the magnificent views.

Then it's time to visit Ti Top Beach - the only beach in the bay where tourists are allowed to swim.

It's packed but well worth the gruelling climb up almost 500 steps to the top, where panoramic views of the bay will have you mesmerised.

Then it's on to visit a cultured pearl farm, before we moor for the night in the Luon Bo area.

Under an almost full moon, guests enjoy a cooking class before another five-course dinner.

I then retire to the deck chairs on the top deck - it's so quiet and peaceful - and I marvel at the incredible beauty that surrounds me.

Day two of the cruise starts with breakfast, then it's on to the boat's tender, which drops us to Sung Sot Cave, where we walk up 100 steps to the cave entrance.

One of the largest caves in Halong Bay, the next 45 minutes are spent gasping at the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

Then it's back to the boat and more food, before we sail back to the Tuan Chau wharf and say our goodbyes to the crew and the friends we've made on the way.

The magnificent beauty and serenity of Halong Bay and its exotic location have captured my heart and the cruise has been a reminder of the beauty we find in nature.

It has definitely been a high point on my trip to Vietnam and one I would recommend all tourists to this amazing country experience.

The author paid for her own trip.