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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

One of the great natural wonders of Asia, and northern Vietnam’s biggest attraction, Halong Bay is a must see. Not wanting to miss out on experiencing this spectacular beauty, we researched prices for two day, one night tours aboard a Vietnamese Junk. We were quoted prices ranging from $25 to $55 US for this tour, and since our hotel, the Prince II, had treated us so well, we decided to book through them. We were not disappointed.

The sixteen seat tour bus was on time at 7:30AM, picking us up at our hotel. Three and one half hours we drove due east from Hanoi to Halong City, where the scenery was filled with bright green rice paddies in various stages of planting. It was fascinating to watch the workers, calf deep in mud, planting rice seedlings one by one in neat rows. Water was being scooped out one bucketful at a time to fill the orderly squares sectioned off to grow the rice.

Arriving in Halong City, the weather was foggy. Still, we were filled with anticipation as our guide directed us through a maze of Vietnamese Junks, boarding each one on the way to the next. We reached ours, aptly named Bien Mo, meaning Open Seas. How enchanting!

Once aboard, the junk set off and lunch was promptly served. Bountiful plates of steamed fish, rice, vegetables, a sautéed pork dish, spring rolls, and fresh pineapple appeared. It was time to meet our fellow shipmates and have a cold beer.

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Afterwards, we eagerly went out from the beautiful dining room to enjoy the mystical fog that enveloped the bay. There are thousands of limestone islands that make up this World Heritage Site, and we had hours ahead of us to view them. Our guide, Tuan, made sure everyone was comfortable, and showed us our room for the night.

Tuan, catching us mesmerized by Halong’s beauty, asked if we had ever heard the legend that accompanies this bay. Although there are many renditions, this is the tale he told us while cruising one of the world’s most beautiful waterways.

THE STORY OF HALONG BAY

In Vietnamese, ha means water and long means dragon. However the fable of Halong Bay is more than that simple translation. It is a cherished legend.

Long ago, the body of water that is now called Halong, or “dragon descending from heaven into the water” was like any other bay. It had clear waters and was easily navigable.

 

However, at this geographical point of Vietnam, enemies were close by. There were the Chinese, the Monguls, and also the “opponent” to the east in what is now known as Hong Kong. Because this bay was open and attractive, and had no natural defense, the Vietnamese were always being invaded. So the native people did what any people would do; they prayed to the heavens for protection.

In answer to these pleas, a dragon from celestial heights descended into the waters to protect the Vietnamese from invaders. The only thing visible to the eye was the dragon’s sharp scales on his back. Soon, the dragon’s children also came, went deep into the waters, and allowed their sharp scaled backs to protrude.

When the enemy came again, they arrived in the dark of night to overtake the local people. They had no idea that the dragons had come to the bay in heavenly assistance. So, since they did not see the dragons' scales, they wrecked their boats on them, and sank to the bottom.

When the tide went out, the Vietnamese, emboldened by the dragons’ help, placed sharpened bamboo poles into the bottom of the bay. Then the tide returned. Meanwhile, more of the enemy arrived to help their fallen troops, sailing in during the day this time. They cautiously navigated around the dangerous dragon scales and were successful. However, the tide began to go out again, exposing the sharpened bamboo poles, and these poles then ripped into the bottom of the enemy’s boats again sinking them.

The enemy became so discouraged with these events, that they never returned, and this northern point of Vietnam became safe from invasions. The huge limestone protrusions that remain to this day, are proof of the dragons’ help and continuing protection.

Filled with the fantasy of this ancient legend, the countless islands took on new meaning. With the sun breaking from the fog, the land and sea changed with every shaft of light and around every turn.
Stunning is a word that barely describes the scenery.

Stopping to visit some caves, we chose to stay onboard. The simple boat life appeals to us, and various scenes of local buying and trading provided a peaceful foreground to the fabulous scascape. Fresh fruit, fish and vegetables were being sold from boat to boat, and our captain shopped for our evening meal.

 

The sound of water quietly lapping at our junk was interrupted by the return of passengers from their cave excursion. The serene spell was broken.

Soon we were off again, weaving in and out amid the islands, watching the play of light upon water and rock. We thought we would never tire of this captivating landscape.

Anchoring off the coast of Cat Ba Island, the captain chose this as our safe harbor for the night. Cat Ba means “Woman Island”. During the various recent wars, the men left to fight, leaving only women and small children on the island, hence, the name. Now, many people live here, yet the name stayed.

Evening brought another abundant meal, and exciting conversation with fellow shipmates. Returning above deck for a final look at the stars, we savored the many images of the day before turning in for the night.

Arising early, the fog had returned. Wisps of white weaving in and around the dragons‘ scales brought the legend back to life, making an entrancing trip back to Halong City.

This two day, one night boat excursion cost $25, booked through our Hotel, the Prince II.  The price included aircon bus pickup and drop off at our hotel, all meals (excluding beverages), the tour through Halong Bay, and night's lodging either on board Bien Mo, or at a hotel on Cat Ba. 

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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