jump to navigation

Ha Long Bay Adventure (?) 10 October 2008

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
Tags: , ,

Originally posted on 10 October 2008 (edited)

We decided to go to Ha Long Bay for our anniversary in July, because it is supposedly a must-do in Vietnam, and because it is renouned for being romantic.  And we had a very good weekend.  I had already been to Ha Long Bay on my previous trip to Vietnam in 2002, so I knew what it was going to be like, but this was the first time that I would be sleeping on one of the sailing junks on the bay.

We left by bus to Halong Bay early on Saturday morning, and the whole way down (about 3 hours drive) it was raining.  We were a little worried, as we really hoped for a nice weekend, but our guide, ‘Buffalo Joe’, promised that the weather would be nice, because, he said, “it always is when I take a group to the Bay.”

Buffalo Joe, by the way, has another name, Quy.  But he has always been known as Buffalo (or Trau in Vietnamese), because the year that he was born, there was a flood in the village where his parents lived, and so they were evacuating the entire village.  Due to his mother’s pregnancy, she rode on a buffalo to escape the floods, but went into labour on the beast’s back.  So he was nicknamed Buffalo from birth.

When he became a tourguide, he was worried that his name, Quy, would be too hard for foreigners to pronounce, and he was worried that he would be known as “queer”, something that he was very adamant he was not!  So if we couldn’t say or remember Quy, we should call him Buffalo.  The “Joe” had been added onto his name by an American sometime back, who thought it had a better ring to it, and Buffalo Joe thought it was pretty nifty, and kept it.

In Halong Bay, we were taken onto the Junk by a little boat, and we were told to settle into our rooms, and come up for the registration and run-through of our programme.  Lunch was also provided, and if there is one thing that Halong bay is famous for, it’s seafood.  It is beautiful and fresh, and we were even taken to one of the floating villages where the fishermen live permanently on the bay with their families.  The villages range from 400 – 700 people, and most of them live off fishing.  Many of the floating houses have cages under the house, so that if the fisherman fetches a particularly nice fish, they keep it alive in there for breeding to ensure there will always be fish in the bay.

After the floating village, we went to a ‘beach’ which was a tiny sand stretch on one of the islands, packed with locals and foreigners.  You could also walk to the top of the mountain via a set of 800 or so steps to enjoy the panoramic view.  We decided that we did not feel like a swim, so we hiked instead.  After coming back down, we were taken to the boat for kayaking.

By this stage, the weather had cleared (which we had said was a must if we were going to kayak), however, we were put in a shoddy double-kayak with a faulty rudder, meaning that no matter how hard we tried, we kept going to the right in big circles.  The guide, who provided no help or effort, proceeded to yell at us to hurry up, which caused us to become a little upset, as we did not think it was our fault.  Even if the rudder had been working properly, the pedals for it were at the level of my partner’s knees, so completely useless to us taller than average people.  Eventually, though, the guide had come back for us, as took the rudder out of the water, which made our life much easier.  We kayaked into a cave, and coming out on the other side, we were actually in an open aera, completely surrounded by limestone formations, only accessible with kayak or by swimming.  It was really still and peaceful there, until the guide decided he would try to shout to stir up some monkeys.  Which made everything not so quiet.  But that’s Vietnam for you.  Why would you want serenity?

Back on the boat, we were served a delicious dinner, and as the boat was marooned for the night, we sat and spoke to the other passengers, sharing a drink and a few laughs before heading off to bed.

The next morning, I had every intention of getting up for the early morning Tai Chi on the junk’s deck, (6:30 start), but when my alarm went off, I decided that more sleep was much more tempting, and I slept a little longer.  That morning, we went to the “Surprisingly Amazing Cave”, which is a cave inside the limestone grottoes, discovered by the French about 150 years ago.  It is actually quite nice, but unfortunately, it has been completely ruined by humans and their attempt to ‘prettyfy’ the caves by adding coloured floodlights etc.  I had an amazing and surreal moment when I was at the deepest point of the cave, though, because there was a short power outage.  Looking back towards the entrance of the cave, it was completely dark, apart from the stream of natural light falling in through the opening.

There was a beautiful misty haze around the central formation near the opening that looks like a very tall tree (a stalagmite) and it looked enchanted and mystical. Unfortunately, I had no one to share the moment with, apart from a massive tourgroup of school age children who were playing music on their mobile phones, giggeling at my height, talking and screaming and schrieking when the power fell out.  I think they all missed it.

We headed back to the harbour after the cave visit, and headed back to Hanoi, with some mixed feelings about the bay and the service, but with a happy feeling of having been there.



No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: