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Special feature on Halong Bay luxury cruise, The Emeraude, in Star Advertiser Magazine August 2014

Special feature on Halong Bay luxury cruise, The Emeraude, in Star Advertiser Magazine August 2014

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Published by HangDo-Balcony

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

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

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Published by: HangDo-Balcony on Aug 08, 2014
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8/3/14 11:16 AMAzure like it - Hawaii News - Honolulu Star-AdvertiserPage 1 of 5http://www.staradvertiser.com/travelpremium/travelnewspremium/20140803__Azure_like_it.html?id=269663071
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 ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2000 A view of Halong Bay, Vietnam. The bay with its about 3,000islands is said to be one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Thestunning rocks were formed over thousands of years by wind andwater. The name Halong means literally “The place, where thedragon emerges from the water.”
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Vietnam's Halong Bay is a treasure, and experiencing it aboard a replica paddle-wheeler isbeautiful
 After an hour of downhill and uphill hikingimmersed in semidarkness, we finally emerge out of the bowels of Sung Sot Grotto, or SurpriseCave, into the sunlight, greeted by a sensationalsurprise: an eye-popping panorama from high over Halong Bay. We pause to absorb theotherworldliness of the panorama. Countlesskarsts — greenery-crowned limestone islets — anda flotilla of cruise ships, trawlers, junks andsampans sprawl across the 900-plus-square-milebay on Vietnam's northeastern coast in the TonkinGulf. The fleet's crown jewel is the Emeraude, asteamer our tour group sets sail on for an overnightexpedition to this spectacular spot.Halong Bay surely ranks among Earth's mostbeautiful places: It was designated a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site and voted one of Earth's sevennatural wonders by Zurich-based New7WondersFoundation.The drive from Hanoi through Vietnam's tropicalcountryside, passing iconic Indochinese images —rice paddies, peasants wearing Southeast Asian"non la" (conical hats) and water buffaloes — takesthree hours. The minibus stops at the EmeraudeCafe, where we shove off in a tender to board thehistoric paddle-wheeler anchored in Halong Bay.Due to its fabled past, the Emeraude, a four-deck,
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8/3/14 11:16 AMAzure like it - Hawaii News - Honolulu Star-AdvertiserPage 2 of 5http://www.staradvertiser.com/travelpremium/travelnewspremium/20140803__Azure_like_it.html?id=269663071
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Best Halong Bay Cruises
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Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
Cathay Pacific
: 800-233-2742;www.cathaypacific.com/us. Flies nonstop direct fromSan Francisco to Hong Kong, where passengers canconnect with Cathay Pacific's sister airline Dragonair for daily Hanoi and Da Nang flights:www.dragonair.com.flat-bottomed paddle boat steamer, is an idealvessel for adventurers embarking on this islandodyssey.The Emeraude was originated by threeentrepreneurial, swashbuckling brothers who leftBordeaux, France, in 1858 to go east. The Roquebrothers' Indochina exploits are "Terry and thePirates" stuff. As the French empire expanded, sodid its enterprises, from opium to timber. In 1890Chinese buccaneer Luu Ky kidnapped and torturedthe two Roques.By the early 20th century the Roqueslaunched four single-wheel paddlesteamers, each named after gems,delivering freight, mail andpassengers at Halong and Red River Delta. The Emeraude provided electriclights, fans, refrigeration and adarkroom for photographers lured byHalong's charms. In 1937, returningfrom Hai
phong, the Emeraude struckan underwater rock and sank. In 1999businessman Eric Merlin stumbledupon vintage postcards depicting thesteamer at a Parisian flea market.Inspired, he tracked down Roquedescendants and build an Emeraudereplica in Hai
phong (although today's paddle wheel is just for show). By 2003, Merlin launched thereconstructed Emeraude, reincarnated as a cruise liner.Our first hours at sea are spent sightseeing, voyaging amiably if not aimlessly amid this exquisitearchipelago. We wend through an amazing maze of whimsically shaped islets. The cerulean seascapeis so stunning and tranquil, it seems like we're sailing across a symphonic poem composed to celebratenature's raptures. The weather is picture-perfect as karsts slip by one by one.The tranquility belies the mythology and history of the region. Halong means "descending dragon";according to mythology, Vietnam's ancient gods dispatched jewel-spitting dragons to repel Chineseinvaders. The U.S. Navy mined the bay after the disputed Gulf of Tonkin incident 50 years ago thismonth spurred combat between the United States and Vietnam.Our port of call is Bo Hon, an island located roughly in Halong Bay's center, where Sung Sot Grotto is.To enter one must trek a tree-lined path up the karst, which requires hardy footgear and the vigor toclimb up and down hundreds of smoothed stony stairs. As guides lead the way through Surprise Cave,our leader notes various rock formations with a laser pointer, identifying a Buddha, monkey, bird andphallic symbol sculpted into Sung Sot's stalactites and stalagmites.Our tour group, sometimes slowed by a human traffic jam, walks along the cave's polished floor and upand down its many steps for 60 minutes. One of Halong's largest karsts, Bo Hon is a range of connected islets that also includes Dong Tien Lake, Luon Grotto and Virgin Grotto, but we didn'tglimpse them or Bon Ho's monkeys or deer — although we saw stalactites resembling them.Returning to the anchored Emeraude, some passengers swim, but I'm deterred by jellyfish warnings. Iembark on a kayak expedition with Colm Fitzgerald, a younger, intrepid Ventura County, Calif., rockclimber. We're dispatched from the paddle-wheeler's bow with little preparation and without a guide.Quickly we discover our kayak's seats aren't properly set up, causing me some back pain. Cautiouslywe head for a floating fishermen's village near a distant karst. But a chop in the water and discomfortcaused by the supportless seating lead us to change course and circumnavigate our portion of Halong,careful not to crash into the karst.Sea hawks soar overhead. Colm and I paddle together or take turns when one wants to shoot pictures.However, at an especially scenic site both shutterbugs simultaneously reach for our cameras, nearlycapsizing the canoe. Six-foot-three Colm's rapid response saves us from going overboard, sparing our 
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