Story by Brian Young
Photo by Lizzy Teplukhin
Near the northeast corner of Vietnam lies Hạ Long Bay, a body of water home to floating fishing villages and over a thousand limestone monoliths. Navigating the bay requires spending several nights aboard a boat, weaving through islets and protruding rocks formed over millions of years.
I was there in January, at which point the weather was unexpectedly chilly. The feeling of isolation was unavoidable aboard the boat—though there was a host of other vessels making their way through the bay at the same time, they were nowhere in sight. Our journey felt tranquil, yet eerily silent. The boat made barely any sound as it cut through the still water below, jade green in some areas and a murky turquoise in others. Looking down was somewhat frightening: there was no way of telling what lay beneath the water, let alone its depth.
Looking out at the horizon, all I could see were scattered rock formations emerging from the water, each with its own unique shape. They ranged from oblong spheres to mountains, weathered and overgrown with greenery or simply small, grey, and exposed. Some, I had heard, were hollow, containing lakes of their own.
The landscape was both dreamy and alien, mystical and strange. It was like nothing I had seen before—a Taoist watercolor world of dense mist curling around tall and unforgiving mountains.
This story appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Baedeker.