Islands, bluudy founsands of them.
15.02.2012 - 17.02.2012 19 °C
Halong Bay. UNESCO No.4. Contrary to what clever types who did Geography and the like at Cambridge will have you believe Halong Bay was actually formed when a number of dragons crashed into the sea causing the disintegration of a massive island. This is obvious when you look at the bay.
Halong Bay makes the top 7 natural wonders of the world- Halong, PP cave river in Philippines, Igezanu waterfalls in Brazil/Arg, Jeju island in S Korea, Table top mountain, the Amazon river and Komodo island. Phew.
Much stress was spent when booking our trip to Halong bay. How many days? What class of boat? Who is reputable? It has 8 million visitors a year and 200 junks and 400 day boats plying its waters. Horror stories abound.
Our first choice, an outer island tour, was full for weeks in advance! However we really landed on our feet with Alova gold. After a quick omelette in a baguette purchased from the lady down the side ally, we were picked in the mini bus and were soon making our way to Halong.
There was the obligatory short stop at the tourist shop en-route that is unavoidable when booking any tour in SE Asia. This was a particularly massive and soulless place. It promised that its profits helped the poor street children who make many of the pieces on sale. The 8 rows of unhappy looking young women on stools embroidering pictures at the entrance were more depressing than uplifting. More depressing still was the massive business they were clearly doing with American and Chinese tourists. Big money flying around. Our holiday phrase of "same s$@t, different store" was replaced with, "same s$%t, biggest store".
We arrived in Halong Bay city and as if the streams of buses en-route didn’t enlighten one to the huge tourist nature of Halong, the massive shining jetty and hundreds of people certainly did. We made it to Alova gold and found a shiny new boat with great rooms. We were soon steaming out of the harbor with tempting glimpses of the limestone rock formations beckoning us in.
The masses awaiting their UNESCO fix.
The pancake trail. Our guide Man.
On arrival we had a safety briefing and were instructed to test our life jackets. Mine was a bit tight below.
The next 2 nights / 3 days were spent eating, cooking classes (bit lame- here is spring roll paper, here is the stuff to go in side- roll), relaxing, seeing caves, visiting floating fishing villages, visiting a pearl farm, drinking passion fruit margaritas and chatting to people. The best bit was kayaking around the limestone karsts and getting through small caves to hidden lagoons.
Relaxing on the "sun" deck.
View from top of limestone caste. Lynne posing.
Islands through the mist.
Local on the water.
Squid fishing. A very exciting near miss after 2 hours!
The "surprising cave", most surprising were the number of penguin bins in it.
Next stop the night train to Sa pa and the hill tribes up near the Chinese border.