Thursday, March 19, 2009
Ha Long Bay
We've been here a week now, and finally, tomorrow, will get to get on a bicycle. I'm not complaining, this has been a fantastic week, full of the sights and sounds and motorbike danger of Hanoi (John's foot was run over this evening as we crossed the street), the beauty and tragedy of Cambodia, and the ultimate vacation/honeymoon/anniversary spot, Ha Long Bay. John and I both complained that the other was the wrong person to enjoy it with. It is a three hour drive by private tour bus from Hanoi, through rice fields, brick plants, coal fired power plants, little towns with the same type of sidewalk life that we see here. Upon arrival they take the party by ship tender out to the junk. The bay in this area is a huge anchoring area for these two masted ships which can hold about 16 guests. Our group was mostly English, one Dutch couple, one Austrailian couple, and one Russian couple. A motorized sail of about two hours through the classic limestone monoliths that are famous from all the tourist literature and geography books got us to a large island where we disembarked to explore what is known as the "amazing cave." This cave is very large, made up of three main cavities. There are French soldiers' grafitti (names and dates) in a couple of places. The dates are 1907, 1906, etc. Another section has Chinese characters evoking hope and long life, from the time when the cave was used as a hospital facility during the struggle against the French. This ship had great food, several courses of shrimp, squid, fish, chicken, beef, broccoli, all mostly stir fried served to each table. We sat with the Dutch couple and enjoyed swapping stories of travel experiences. Their's was quite extensive, as is John's. We finished dinner and played around with some karaoke. The sky was grey both days we were on the water, so some of the photos are not as good as one would wish, but should still help the viewer to get an idea of how stunningly beautiful this place is. This morning we sea kayaked for a couple of hours among the islands, under connecting land bridges, etc. The temperature was great, and the lack of sun probably made the experience more enjoyable. The bay has many floating homes, and oyster farms where they grow pearls, which were of course for sale on board. Three hours on the bus and back we came to Hanoi. These next few days on bikes may or may not have any entries, as I don't know if these little hotels will have internet. I'll see what I can do.