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Ha Long Bay Vietnam

A comparatively short, but exhausting  journey of some 3 ½ hrs North East of Hanoi, lays the famous, World Heritage listed, Ha Long Bay of North Vietnam. “exhuasting journey”, because the roads themselves are in need of repair and so congested progress is slow. Plus, the and towns we drove through, industrial,dirty unkempt and poor – not a nice journey.

Although we went in January (not the best time to visit the North of Vietnam) Ha Long Bay itself though, is an experience not to be missed and is perhaps one of the more difficult experiences to portray in words. With over 2,000 small sandstone island outcrops of the archipelago, we were taken by luxury Junk, quietly and almost serenely weaving in and out of the most breathtaking views of which our photographs fail to do justice, though it has to be said the grey overcast New Year weather did nothing to help.

Fishing Village Ha Long Bay

Fishing Village Ha Long Bay

As part of our particular trip we visited the Ha Long Bay fishing village where during the 18th Century, some people fled to take up this incredibly austere life-style rather than work for, or fight the French. Whilst even today some still live, eat and sleep on their boats, conditions have been slightly improved by World Heritage funding and the whole fishing village enjoy’s television and the ubiquitous mobile phones of modern life. Generators now provide electricity and small houses float on polystyrene blocks.

Many of these fishing people in Vietnams Ha Long Bay welcome the tourist intrusion, as it brings them (if only in limited quantity) the all important “American Dollar”, but truthfully we did feel a little like intruders; as though we really shouldn’t be there, peering as we were into their homes and lives for a few photographs of a world we formallyk new nothing of and the fact our US$10 tip to the young man who rowed us around the village for almost an hour, brought such woops of admiration and comment – only proved us right.  

View from Surprise caves, Ha Long bay

View from Surprise caves, Ha Long bay

Having said all that, the people mostly smiled and children happily waved as even the smallest rowed their way past making it a very special experience that we would recommend wholeheartedly.  Be aware though that there are many, many tour companies running trips like ours and they vary from 1 to 3 days. Our advice would be to take a luxury Junk as even “luxury” is not expensive and go for at least 2 days. Another point worth considering is that the second visit of our Ha Long Bay cruise was a visit to the “Surprise caves” in Ha Long  Bay and whilst worth the visit felt herded  and very “touristy” even out of season – goodness knows what it would be like at the height!

Jasmine Luxury Junk Ha Long Bay

Jasmine Luxury Junk Ha Long Bay

Small Boat, Ha Long Bay

Small Boat, Ha Long Bay

 

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