Saturday, July 28, 2007
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Well the last two days have been spent in a bus or on a boat. The trip to Halong Bay Vietnam was an interesting one. Let me tell you that communisim is alive and well here in Vietnam. The concrete block architecture, the roadside truck checks are all what I expected. What I didn’t expect is the standards of living that are there. By and large from what you can see it is still a country of the haves and have nots, but there are more haves than have nots from what I can see.
The architecture of the haves is very french colonial and quite beautiful even if it is pulled off in a concrete row house kind of way with no landscaping and only paint on the front side of the buildings as if the sides of the building do not matter. The people however are VERY friendly even if very few of them actually speak english.
Our tour left Hanoi at 8am and was a 3 hour bus (read full size cargo van) ride to Halong Bay. Arriving at the bay I thought my brain would back in the parking lot which had to be 118 degrees F and 99% humidity while we waited for boarding. The first thing you notice is the chaos and the realization that the cruise is not going to be all so private. There are over 100 ships in the harbor all getting ready to go out for one kind of cruise or another.
We board and get our room assignments which turn out to be amazing. One of the best rooms we’ve had so far. Brand new sheets and clean bathrooms in a private twin bedroom arrangement.
The ship leaves and we head out into the bay and are treated to magnificent weather and scenery of limestone fingers stretching out of the water. Weaving our way amongst them we head towards a massive “mamoth cave”-like cave and then take a nice kayak tour. RAT FARTS! Yes folks its happened again, I’ve managed to loose one more thing. After kayaking through a great cave, I decided I needed a quick swim and did a back roll out of my kayak.. only to discover that I still had my sunglasses on my head and they are now on the bottom of Halong Bay.. OOPS! That makes, running tights, fingernail clipper, swiss army knife and sunglasses lost on this trip so far.
Back on board we head out into the bay and anchor with 20 of our closest sister ships for a not so private or quiet evening out on the bay. If I thought we were going to have some solitude with nature out here I was wrong. Blazing lights and loud music from all the boats kind of killed that. But even with the distractions, the near full moon and the fantastic scenery was still some of the most spectacular you could ask for.
Add to the fact that we met some great people, Hannah and Harry from the UK, Jane from Denmark, Gerry, Geraldine, Marie, and the rest of the Irish crew, Dustin and Wendy from Seattle and Jeff and Minow from Quebec.. what a fun fun night. A lot of karaoke was heard and after a few glasses of rice wine (read moonshine) with our guide Dod, I was suddenly able to understand his Vietnamese accent quite well.
The morning brought swealtering head and humidity again along with more stunning views. After a quick dip in the bay again, jumping off the top of the boat was tons of fun but nearly a bad idea as I slipped my last jump off. The pictures are on Gino’s camera but all is well and I had not problems. Just decided that I needed to call it a day.
Tonight, we went to see the water puppet show. Interesting to say the least. Pupetts that are controlled from bamboo rods under the water by people standing behind a screen. Then it was drinks by the lake and more drinks with our newest friend Jen from Toronto. At the end of the second pub, the police came in and started taking the chairs out of the pub. The bartender made it clear that we should finish our bear quickly and get out. I had no desire to be in a vietnamese prison so we took off in a hurry.
Now I’m sitting here wondering if the all night construction project going on just outside the door here will be so loud that I don’t get any sleep. Oh well, such is the fun of traveling.I’ll try and get some pictures up tomorrow, this place has good internet connectivity.Bill & Gino