Day Three of our Halong Bay boat cruise with Paradise Cruises began at about 7am. The early start ensured we beat some of the other crowds headed to Bo Hon Island to see one of the biggest caves in the area, Sung Sot Cave meaning ‘Cave of Surprises’.
Sung Sot Cave
We had a short wait at the entrance to Sung Sot Cave and groups from other boats were beginning to arrive too so I wasn’t too excited about the expedition initially. However, once we climbed the fifty-odd steps (the cave is 25 metres above sea level) and then descended into the first chamber, I could see why this was such a big tourist draw and, of course, how it earned its name.
The grotto was first discovered by the French in 1901 and is about 10,000 metres squared in size. Thousands of stalagmites reached towards the 30 metre high ceiling of the first chamber, while smooth, organic shaped stalactites hung low towards the stone floors. Coloured lights hit the shiny rock faces and bounced around the chamber. The textures were just beautiful and our guide told us the water that once filled the space left the bubble-like indentations and patterns.
The second chamber was more like a large amphitheatre. Tourist quickly shrunk as they carefully climbed through the tunnel and the huge gallery-like space opened up before them. A well-worn paved path led the trail of visitors around the chamber. The feeling inside was both eery and beautiful; natural light hovered in a haze at the mouth of the grotto and further down into the darker corners artificial lighting created shadows as the rock formations played with the colourful lights. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Hawker Market Outside Sung Sot Cave
Stepping out the other end of the cave, the humidity hit again but I was quickly distracted by the colourful boats propped in between the rock walls and the wharf, where our boat would collect us. Local fishermen are selling their morning haul. Every possible catch you can imagine was up for sale, on display in coloured plastic baskets, hanging from the side of their boats into the water to maintain freshness. We watched as a bucket of about 2 kilos of fresh squid was exchanged for $AUD6. While sellers waited for customers, they sorted and cleaned the fish, squid, prawns and other offerings by hand. Propped at the end of the line, another hawker had a boat stocked with a broad collection of junk food, soft drinks and cigarettes – it was a veritable one-stop Halong convenience shop.
The Final Leg of Our Halong Bay Cruise
Breakfast was waiting when we hopped back on the boat. The short walk really helped us work up an appetite. We sat on the dining room balcony so we could marvel at our surrounds, knowing it was our final morning on the water. As we ate, the boat began the journey back to port.
We packed up our quarters and watched the scenery pass as we prepared to dock. Back on Tuan Chau Island, we were offered lunch and a wi-fi password in the Paradise Suites Hotel restaurant. A couple of hours later we were on the mini-bus bound for Hanoi. Our luggage was taken care of all the way back to our drop-off point and Paradise Cruises even arranged for a taxi to meet us mid-way so we could go directly to the airport which was extremely helpful. Now that is service to the final whistle!
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.