Sunday, December 12, 2010

halong bay (vietnam)

when my former colleague found out that i was visiting hanoi, she wrote in my facebook: "you must go to halong bay". so, on our third day in vietnam, we made the 3.5-hour (157km) drive to halong bay, journeying through the rich farmlands of the red river delta, observing vietnamese villagers working in their rice fields, taking pigs to market on their motorcycles and ploughing the fields with their water buffaloes.

our day-trip ticket entitled us a visit to one of the many caves. we chose to visit hang dau go (grotto of wooden stakes) known to the french as the grottes des merveilles (cave of marvels). it is a huge cave, comprising three chambers, which can be reached via 90 steps. the third chamber was said to have been used by vietnamese folk hero tran nung dao to store sharp bamboo stakes which were used against the mongolians led by kublai khan.

our junk sailed past one of the four floating villages in halong bay but we did not make a stop. the people who make these pontoons their homes spend most of their time fishing in the waters of the bay and cultivating some marine biota. some venture to grow some food crops on the nearby islands. their catches from the sea are usually sold to people who come in bigger boats that take the fresh fish to markets on the mainland.

we had the luxury of having the boat, which could accommodate up to 48 passengers, all to ourselves. according to our tour guide, there are about 1000 boats of varying sizes available to tourists in halong bay. we were served a basic seafood lunch, which included crabs, prawns and fish, on board the boat. we spent a large part of our time on the boat soaking in the atmosphere drinking in the beautiful sights around us, and taking lots of pictures.

we took the most number of pictures at halong bay. some of the pictures were taken on land but most of the pictures were taken when we were on the boat out in the bay.

when we mentioned that we would be visiting halong bay, a number of our friends cautioned us about the weather and the flooding in hanoi. "it is the monsoon season at the end of the year". on the contrary, we found out that december is part of the dry season and actually it is a good time to visit because of the cool weather. temperatures were in the low 20s.

one friend who has been to halong bay before recommended that we stay at least one night. we could opt to sleep on those boats with cabins or stay overnight at one of the hotels on the bigger islands in the bay. it was a pity our schedule did not permit us to do so.

in 1994, halong bay was designated as vietnam's second unesco world heritage site in recognition of its outstanding universal aesthetic value. visitors have compared the mystical scenery with thousands of limestone islands rising from the emerald waters to guilin in china
and krabi in thailand.
in 2009, halong bay was on the list of nominations as one of the world's 7 natural wonders.


Lam Chun See said...

This is the type of place that I like to visit when I go for holidays. Thanks for sharing.

Questions: Can the tourist go fishing? Do they provide fishing gear?

yg said...

chun see, the inconvenient part is you have to travel nearly four hours to get to halong bay from hanoi. they are working on a high-speed train linking halong bay to hanoi.
i was told that some tourists go fishing in the bay.