|Today we traveled to Halong City, three hours from Hanoi, to visit Halong Bay and the incredible limestone islands that rise up from the emerald green sea floor of the Gulf of Tonkin and that cover an area of 5000 square kilometres. Enroute we passed thru a village which was situated next to a coal mine and there was so much dust created by this industry, the streets and buildings, even the dogs running loose, seemed to be a charcoal grey colour. Prior to 1994 the Halong Bay area was mostly visited by Vietnamese tourists, but after designation by Unesco as a World Heritage sight, it has become a major international tourist attraction. "Halong" translates into "where the dragon descends into the sea"....legends say that the islands were formed by a great dragon that resided in the mountains and as he ran towards the coast its flailing tail carved out valleys and crevasses which filled with water leaving the limestone peaks visible. Halong Bay's islands have numerous caves or grottoes, accessible only by boat. We boarded the Huong Hai Junk and went for a cruise around the many limestone islands.... enroute we were served a wonderful seafood lunch...prawns and crab, squid and vegetables and steamed fish......exquisite......we then stopped at a cave presumably found by accident in 1993 by fisherman seeking refuge from a storm and which was opened as a tourist site in 1997. The junk returned us to the dock and we made our way back to Hanoi, arriving late in the evening. We checked back into the Galaxy Hotel, once again not being able to get consecutive nights in the same hotel. Tomorrow, we're off to Ho Chi Minh City.......