on October 23, 2009
Halong Bay.Halong bay is situated just off the coast North East of Hanoi in the gulf of Tonkin. It took us about three and a half hours to drive there from Hanoi for a day trip but there are different trips you can do including sleeping on a boat for a couple of days if you wish. Our day trip cost approximately $50 a head including luxury coach from Hanoi passing small villages and paddy fields stopping en route for refreshment and toilet stops. We were on the boat for about five hours including a cooked seafood lunch meal or a meat based meal it was up to you to choose which you preferred. Drinks were available for an extra cost. We then returned to Halong where the coach was waiting to take us back to Hanoi. It was well worth the trip for the views and the experience.Halong bay means Dragon bay named so because according to legend the dragons were sent by the Gods to help fight ward of Chinese invaders. The dragons spat out Jewels which turned into the little islets and Islands that are dotting the bay. There are in total 2000 such islets. An area of 775 islets has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. The rock formations are made of limestone and have been around for 5000 million years.If you think of James bond film with the Massive rock formations from Phang Nga bay in Thailand well this is much bigger.The water is crystal clear and it is here in the bay prior to lunch that the captain dropped anchor and we took the opportunity of having a swim in the South China Sea. The water was pleasantly warm and certainly inviting although this is not always the case.The islets have some thick jungle on the top of some of the islets and there are 4 water gypsy villages based around some of the islets nearer to shore. You can take the boats out to the islands for a tour which involves passing one of the gypsy water villages built on stilts around the base of the islets then out to one of the bays for swimming in the crystal clear waters. There are 300 species of fish that live within the bay and on some of the islets are inhabited by birds, monkeys, chickens antelopes and lizards.There are caves you can visit by using a canoe and some of the larger islands there are lakes inside them. However tourism has upset the fine balance here due to dropped litter, discarded wine bottle beer tins as well. Some of the caves have been widened to allow the canoes to enter and some tourists have broken off stalactites’ and stalagmites as souvenirs. Carbon dioxide exhaled on the breath of tourists has had an affect on the inside of the caves.If visiting the bay I would be very wary about checking the weather forecast as mists suddenly descend without warning and storms brew up unexpectedly and there are sometimes deaths due to this. You should also ensure that your boat is sea worthy and wear the life jackets provided.The day we went there all of a sudden a mist descended which obscured some of the islets but we were enjoying the views so much It didn’t mar our experience although of course it would have been better if it had stayed clear the whole time we were there. About two days after we had visited the bay a massive storm brewed up and 60 people lost their lives in the bay and also recently a couple of weeks ago another boat capsized resulting of the death of two French tourists.Would I recommend a tour here?Yes absolutely, yes for the point of view of providing much needed cash to the local economy and also the experience you are going to gain from seeing the fishing villages, the remarkable caves and rock formations. It is definitely a highlight attraction in Vietnam.
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