Wednesday, January 11

Halong Bay

After one day in Hanoi, we decided to head east to Halong Bay. If it seems like we were moving fast, it's because we were. We had one month of vacation time, which sounds like a lot until you realize we needed to travel down the coast of Vietnam, through Cambodia, and end up in Bangkok by Jan 6. To be honest, although the constant travel got exhausting at times, overall I think both of us are pretty happy with how it all worked out.

Here's the map to show you where Halong Bay is:

Anyway, as I was saying, our next stop was Halong Bay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And once you visit Halong Bay, it's easy to see why. Even under misty grey skies the water was emerald green, and there are thousands of little islands with steep, dramatic cliffs.

Halong Bay - UNESCO World Heritage Site

We left Hanoi on a mini-bus early in the morning, and 3 hours later pulled into the port where all of the boats depart for Halong Bay. Almost every boat is an old Chinese junk boat. "Junk" is meant to describe the type of boat, but could also probably be used to describe the condition of the boats... (We'd be the pot, shouting out "Black!") We had opted for a 2-day tour of Halong Bay, with an overnight on the junk.

The port, similar to the roads, was craziness. The captains don't actually dock their boats - they just sort of drift towards the pier, and call it good when they gently (or not-so-gently) bump into it. The port was packed with boats pulling in and out, and we noticed that when a boat is reversing, it just keeps going until another boat honks to let the captain know he's getting close. Of course, when the captain hears the horn of another boat, rather than change direction, he simply eases up on the throttle a bit and continues to reverse.

Port traffic

Another thing that water and land traffic have in common is the presence of touts. Even on a boat, you can't escape the touts. The picture below shows a small boat approaching one of the tourist junks, trying to sell snacks and fruit. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see that the vendor has actually crawled up onto the junk in attempt to sell goods to the passengers at the windows.

No escaping the touts!

We pulled out of port without hitting anything (other than the dock and the boat moored next to us), and made our way to some caves in Halong Bay. The caves were pretty cool, and although sometimes the formations that the guides pointed out were a bit of a stretch ("See how that rock there looks like the arm of a woman petting a pig eating corn?"), others were dead-on:

Feet overhanging.

After the caves the boat headed for a beach. It wasn't really beach weather (cool and grey) so instead of getting in the water we climbed a hill behind the beach and caught some great views. Yep, we also had a couple beers. Hey, we were on vacation!

Views from above the beach

More views of Halong Bay

Around 5 pm we left the beach for a bay where numerous other junks were anchored for the night. It turns out that all the tourist junks drop anchor in the same bay because there used to be problems with pirates! We spent the evening drinking more beer and playing Gin Rummy with a very nice French couple named Michael and Fanny. Fanny was particularly impressive because she spoke very little English but still managed to pick up Gin Rummy in a matter of minutes.

We slept relatively well that night, although Tom tells me he had to get up at one point to stamp his feet on the ground to scare off a rat. I remained blissfully asleep for that encounter.

The next day was pretty mellow, and we mainly just puttered around a bit before heading back to port.

Chillin' on the junk

As we puttered around, I noticed what a cool, yet strangely hungry, masthead our boat had!

Dragon masthead

Oh my god, it's eating that boat!

Oh no, it's got Tom's hand!

Yeah, it's probably a good thing we pulled into port an hour later...



At 3:25 AM, Blogger jazzytraveler said...

You guys got some absolutely beautiful pictures. Did you go to the penis cave?? *wink wink*


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