Ha Long Bay Vietnam!
Lately, I have been hearing from a Vietnamese friend through Facebook. He shares photos of his daily life in Hanoi, the cafes he visits with his friends, etc., and I have remembered the trip I made to this country, and of which I have hardly noticed around here, in the summer of 2009. I have already commented on it, Vietnam was not a country that hooked me or that I would say that “I will return” , and I do not know very well how to explain it, but it is like that. However, that is not why I am going to deny that it has extraordinary places. Ha Long Bay is one of them 🙂
Arriving at Ha Long Bay
Upon arrival in Hanoi, we were told that a typhoon was hitting the nearby coasts and navigation in the Bay had been closed. We were going to be a couple of days in Hanoi and then we would go another couple of days to North Vietnam, so we kept our eyes open.
And sure enough, when it was time to leave, after passing through Hanoi, the typhoon was gone. Well!!!
We arrive at the port where you can access the mogollón of boats that ply the waters of the Bay. Tourists and travelers of all kinds were busy getting into the boats that would bring them closer to the hired boats. Whether it was for a one-day excursion or several. One of those places where you see all kinds of characters, and also travel styles. Including the ones with huge samsonite that are as out of place as an octopus in a garage. Anyway.
There we found that the reserved boat was damaged. The company gave us another one instead, but it turned out to be for us alone and of a higher category. Luck was smiling on us again.
Impossible to distinguish between all the floating options, when we got to it, I couldn’t believe it !!
A classic and very beautiful wooden ship, with an air of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Well, pirates of the China Sea, heh heh. The cabins were very well equipped and although a little narrow, beautiful. Her name: Victory. Very appropriate.
A small army of waiters were at our service, and I will never forget the beers on the upper deck. Observing the wonderful rock formations and covered with vegetation that rose in all directions. You will agree with me that things taste better in an environment like this, and Vietnamese beer is good. 😉
Sailing between rocks
We sail entering the widest channels. The draft of the ship did not allow going through the narrowest, a pity. We admire those great karst formations that are accompanied by their own legend.
A dragon is responsible for this fantastic landscape. The sailors say that there is a huge sea creature that occasionally shows itself, and is called Tarasque. The soldiers who patrol the Bay think it is a spy submarine, ha ha.
Soldiers? Yes, soldiers. In fact, this area is not freely accessible to a large extent. Hence also the concentration of boats and tourists at certain points. If you spend the night in Ha Long Bay, it will be with the boat at anchor with the others . A kind of floating city is concentrated in a point controlled by the military.
This seemed sad to me and made him lose two points or more to the magic of the place, but it is what it is!
Life in Ha Long Bay
In addition to contemplating this wonder of nature, along the way you can see the houses of fishermen and shellfish farmers. Floating houses and surrounded by small nurseries that add a point of color to the landscape. It is a beautiful image, but we must not forget that they are inhabited by people with very limited means.
Safety in Ha Long Bay
Boats loaded with souvenirs also depart from these floating houses . They say you have to be careful not to get jerked, although as our boat was rather tall, not many came and they left us quite alone. Anyway, some companions had money stolen from their cabin. It must have been someone from the crew, but the question remained in the air. It seems that it is quite frequent, so you know, take care of your things!
What to visit, in particular, in Ha Long Bay
Hang Sung Sot Cave
If I remember correctly, when it comes to specific points to visit, we first went to Hang Sung Sot Cave, a point of confluence of tourist boats. I think that “everything” goes by. The cave is huge. There are actually a lot of caves in Ha Long Bay because the water very efficiently digs out the karst rock. In this case there are three large chambers and … it is too exploited by tourism.
As in all the tourist caves, I have visited, the guides make an effort to point out the formations of stalactites and stalagmites that “look like …”. The main attraction here is a phallus-shaped stalagmite.
To make matters worse, the cave is terribly “colored” by blue, red, pink spotlights. Call me a party pooper, but these things are tacky to me. Be careful, I tried to avoid taking pictures of that tacky as much as possible, so don’t think I’m exaggerating for this pair of prints, it’s much worse! 😀
Then we went to the island of Tito (Dao Titop), which was the scene of the meeting between Tito (yes, that man who ruled Yugoslavia) and the leaders of Vietnam at that time, in the late 70s or in the early 80s of the past. century. I don’t remember much else about the story, they probably deployed great security devices and signed documents and agreements.
This island has a small beach, somewhat neglected but that helped us to take a bath and test the waters of the Bay. Being in the water with all those islands in front was a magical moment , and also surprising because the water was warm. Really hot. It was not a very pleasant sensation, but being at sunset it was not bad. If we had bathed with the sun falling flat on our heads, I don’t even want to think about it. By the way, you can climb to the highest point of the little island, and they say that the views are magnificent. I opted for relaxation 😉
I remember the food on the boat that day. It was the only one because the next day they changed us to a smaller and seedier boat, they say because of the draft. Really delicious, made up of very fresh seafood and I don’t remember what else, but delicious. We were a bit misplaced, we even had white cotton tablecloths on the tables. We felt a little “rednecks” amid so much glamor, ha ha!
Cat Ba National Park
The second day we used it to get to know the interior of one of the islands. Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Ha Long Bay , and there is a whole mini-megapolis of hotels, restaurants and karaoke, in the purest Benidorm style. But we would not discover that until the afternoon, when we went to spend the night in one of those tower hotels.
We accessed the island from the other side, or was it another island that belonged to the Cat Ba National Park, I couldn’t say. The fact is that we disembarked at a tiny pier and headed down a path that took us to the interior of the island.
On this road we find various treasures of the small fauna of the place: centipedes, spiders, dragonflies (one of the symbols of Vietnam) and butterflies, many butterflies. So we had a lot of fun taking photos and rummaging through the undergrowth 🙂
At last we came to a deep valley full of rice fields, with a small town scattered along the same road that we were driving and that seemed to be the only one on the island. A very quiet town, with its houses and home stands, and few people in sight (although very friendly).
Some pulled up, with the idea of climbing to a nearby peak and seeing the panorama. I gave up because it was so hot and humid that I honestly passed. The monsoon weather in Vietnam is overwhelming, and although I endured the several-hour hikes on more or less flat terrain very well, I gave up extra efforts of this type.
When the others came down, the shirts were drained and it was incredible. They must have lost half the water in their bodies !! :OR
That night, once “settled” in the Bedinoran hotel in Cat Ba, we went out to dinner. It was like a jug of cold water after seeing so much natural beauty . No, I do not have photos of that tourist city , where by the way what is abundant is the local tourist, those incipient middle classes or new rich who are making their way in a country that has been moving in a constant bipolarity for a few years now: communism and free market.
I remember that we did a few laps and that we did not get the dinner right, which was also much more expensive than usual.