A Long Strange Cruise Through Ha Long Bay
This blog entry is part of our “Retro Series” in that we go back and blog about trips we have already taken but were to
lazy busy to blog about. This is the third and final blog about our trip to Hanoi, Vietnam.
After touring the city of Hanoi for a couple days, with congested sinuses and pounding headaches, we set off for the quiet solitude of Ha Long Bay a few hours north. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to limestone karsts that poke out of the South China Sea and is one of the most sought after destinations in Vietnam. It’s often touted as a “must see” of SE Asia and since we had plenty of time in Hanoi, we booked a two day/one night tour on a Chinese Junk (small wooden cruise ship). Early the next morning we were shuttled off to the remote northeast corner of Vietnam.
The quiet, fresh air was certainly a nice change, although the shuttle bus that carried us to our port was clearly not built for westerners. Along with our fellow travelers from Malaysia, Scotland, Canada and UK, we were feeling a little cramped and thus quite relieved upon arriving where we were able to stretch out again. When we got there we were taken out to our home for the next 24ish hours. Here she is:
Our weather was overcast and gray so the first day our view was a little like this….
And a little of this….
Perhaps it was simply the weather, but needless to say, we felt a disconnect between our expectations and the reality of the experience. Tough critics, I know.
The next day, we visited a floating fishing village nearby where it was amazing to see how its inhabitants lived and worked without much interaction with the outside world. (I mean, besides the tourists they lugged around.)
The coolest thing was that each house was guarded by a dog. Of all shapes and sizes.
Spending the night on a ship was interesting but ultimately we felt it was doable in a long day trip. For the time and money spent, we just didn’t see the value in stretching it out to an overnight event. Plus the food on board the Junk left a few things to be desired. In fact, as we would later find out, it was here I (Dan) picked up salmonella. Yuck.
We met some really interesting travelers on our boat from all over the world, and snapped some great photos over the two days but for the most part the best thing about Ha Long Bay was the respite it provided from the congestion of Hanoi. It was with mixed feelings that we embarked on the 3.5hr, rickety bus ride back to the city for more sight-seeing. The traffic there gave us a new perspective and appreciation for how developed the roads and infrastructure actually are in Malaysia.