Halong Bay, Vietnam
Just some photos for the moment.
An expected typhoon resulted in our trip being cut short. Thus, now back in Hanoi 😦
Saturday 11th July – Sunday 12th July.
Our day started with an 8.30am pick up from our hotel for the four hour trip out to Halong Bay. The sun was out but…so were the crazy drivers, as usual. It was a trip that kept you well and truly alert.
We arrived at Halong Bay at about midday and were shown to a large restaurant waiting room along the harbour front where we were to wait for the other couple who were sharing the Junk journey with us. All we knew was that they were a couple in their 60s. Mike and Rachel, a couple from Dublin, were found by a process of elimination; we were the only 5 people left in the room. Mike is a journalist for a current affairs program in Ireland and Rachel is recently retired from publishing but a soon to be potter. They were a friendly and most interesting couple and we looked forward to spending the next couple of days with them.
Our junk set out at about 1pm and we celebrated this with a 9 course lunch as we sailed out through the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The scenery was just spectacular with a vast seascape punctuated by hundreds of small limestone islands rising sharply and majestically up out of the water.
We dropped anchor some time later and boarded some 2 man kayaks for a paddle around some of the islands and to visit a typical Floating Village. The Village was amazing as it was made up of a small community of Vietnamese families living on board their tiny individual house boats moored along side each other. That was it; no corner shop, bank, bottle shop or footy fields. Just a few square meters of boat space per family. Fishing formed the basis of their livelihood and their catch was pooled collectively each day and sold at the fish markets back in Halong Bay. The money earned was used to support their other most modest needs. They had access to electricity for only a couple of hours of an evening so, whilst they had TV and radio, there were no computers or fridges. This meant that there was no cold beer, white wine, milk or ice cream! Theirs was a real ‘hand to mouth’ existence. One small boat house was used as the local school but there was no notion of soccer, basketball or letting the kids get out for a run. These children just swam or rowed their boats and these skills were usually acquired before they learned to walk. This was, needles to say, a humbling and most confronting experience. It made all of us realise the excess and privilege that we have and enjoy in our lives. Though, having said that, they were the ones cheering us hello and smiling!
Back at the boat we all stripped down to our swimming costumes for a well earned swim as the humidity was still high, even out here on the open water. Dinner turned out to be another many-layered experience but our spirits were dampened after dinner with news that our tour would be cut short and finish after breakfast the next day due to a typhoon that was threatening the east coast. We were all quite depressed by this news but powerless to fix the situation so, after a quick visit to a cave on a nearby island the next morning, we returned to Halong Harbour.
The most depressing aspect of this news was that we would have to return to Hanoi for yet another night. The hotel staff greeted us back like long lost relatives though and we spent the afternoon lazing around and re-scheduling some flights. We caught up with Mike and Rachel in the evening for a drink and a bite to eat before heading home to prepare for tomorrows departure to Hue.