TIO SE Asia: The Dragon & The Watermelon Boat

TIO SE Asia: The Dragon & The Watermelon Boat

Editor’s note: Early in my commercial flying career I had the opportunity to learn to fly seaplanes. I never really improved on that initial training, but I retained enough to appreciate the skills of the pilots flying the Cessna Caravan on amphibious floats that returned Susan and me to Hanoi from Halong Bay. They had to contend with a nasty wind-driven chop in the water on departure and a wild crosswind landing at the Hanoi Airport. As a passenger, with my nose pressed against the window, it was all worth it as we did o e big circle over the sea stacks in Halong Bay, a beautiful coda to our all too short sojourn there.

Halong Bay from the air

Halong Bay from the air

A dragon stretched and yawned then left his cave for his morning constitutional. Legend has it that over time, the comings and goings of this huge monster, the lashings of his tail, caused a change in the tides that ultimately created the phantasmagorical shapes that populate the site: crags that stick up like pyramids, towers, pillars, arches, giant porticoes, and dramatic caves.



Did the gods send dragons who dropped jewels and jade from their mouths into the bay create the more than 1960 islands.


As geologists have explained, the karst –  a special type of landscape formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, including limestone and dolomite – phenomenon is simply the product of the erosion of selective seascapes over a period of about 500 million years.

In 2012, Halong Bay ( the name means Dragon’s Den or  Descending Dragon’s Bay) was classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Its geographical formations all have fanciful names given by locals, who, research has shown, occupied the place tens of thousands of years ago in prehistoric times. Many of the names come from the shape of the islands themselves, such as Mai Nha Island (roof) and Voi Island (elephant).

The Bay, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the next stop after Hanoi, providing a much needed respite from the hustle and cement that now has come to define Vietnam’s capital, an area covering about 1000 square miles.




And once again, thanks to Cambodia Inspiration, we toured the place –– Halong Bay and the much more pristine Bai Tu Long Bay – in style.

“Style”comes down to two words: Indochine Junk.

The company’s L’Amour Junk is designed like traditional sailing boats of yore and was the first small deluxe one-cabin junk in the area. The junk is an ideal option for a couple on a romantic trip – just like us.


On board, it was just the two of us and a crew of four, including our self-described “butler” “Lee,” a captain, a first mate, and a talented chef, each determined to meet, rather anticipate and surpass, our every need and the requirements of our itinerary: a visit to a natural cave, kayaking, a visit to one of the floating fishing villages, and foods, lots of fabulously fresh food.


And that’s where the watermelon boat sails into the picture: the chef decided his scrumptious banquets were not enough, so while we were out kayaking in late morning, he made a sculpture of two love doves out of white radishes, perched on a trunk of  a large carrot. And while we were out visiting the fishing village, he was at it again, this time creating an exact replica of L’Amour #1 out of watermelon; its sails fashioned from carrots; our names written in tiny letters cut out of the skin of the melon.

This was art for heart’s sake.

Ho Chi Minh, who was both the prime minister and the president of Vietnam at different times, is known to have described Halong Bay “the wonder that one cannot impart to others.”

And it’s no wonder.


After two days and one night blissed out by sunrises, sunsets and gentle breezes, from our perch on the top deck of the boat, we returned to Hanoi to enjoy one more night at The Sofitel Metropole, one more gourmet dinner at an expat hang, before departing the next morning for Danang.



No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.