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Vietnam's Halong Bay is a treasure, and experiencing it aboard a replica paddle-wheeler is beautiful

By Ed Rampell
Special to the Star-Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 03, 2014

~~<p>After an hour of downhill and uphill hiking immersed in semidarkness, we finally emerge out of the bowels of Sung Sot Grotto, or Surprise Cave, into the sunlight, greeted by a sensational surprise: an eye-popping panorama from high over Halong Bay. We pause to absorb the otherworldliness of the panorama. Countless karsts &mdash; greenery-crowned limestone islets &mdash; and a flotilla of cruise ships, trawlers, junks and sampans sprawl across the 900-plus-square-mile bay on Vietnam's northeastern coast in the Tonkin Gulf. The fleet's crown jewel is the Emeraude, a steamer our tour group sets sail on for an overnight expedition to this spectacular spot.</p>
<p>Halong Bay surely ranks among Earth's most beautiful places: It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and voted one of Earth's seven natural wonders by Zurich-based New7Wonders Foundation.</p>
~~

After an hour of downhill and uphill hiking immersed in semidarkness, we finally emerge out of the bowels of Sung Sot Grotto, or Surprise Cave, into the sunlight, greeted by a sensational surprise: an eye-popping panorama from high over Halong Bay. We pause to absorb the otherworldliness of the panorama. Countless karsts — greenery-crowned limestone islets — and a flotilla of cruise ships, trawlers, junks and sampans sprawl across the 900-plus-square-mile bay on Vietnam's northeastern coast in the Tonkin Gulf. The fleet's crown jewel is the Emeraude, a steamer our tour group sets sail on for an overnight expedition to this spectacular spot.

Halong Bay surely ranks among Earth's most beautiful places: It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and voted one of Earth's seven natural wonders by Zurich-based New7Wonders Foundation. Login for more...



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