Sunday, April 5, 2009

Karst hopping in Ha Long Bay

April and I unloaded from the mini bus and stood on the side walk as droves of tourists filed past us. Our guide asked us to wait while she hailed a taxi to take us to a different harbor and our Junk boat that would be our home for the next two days.

Ha Long Bay, which means mother dragon, contains 1,969 karst formations that rise out from the calm waters of the China Sea. A popular tourist destination, Junk boats can take you for cruises around the bay. We were setting out on a two day cruise along with Todd who, we hoped, had arrived at the boat on a different mini-bus.

The taxi arrived and, along with two other women, we were taken through the small town to another harbor. We boarded a small boat that took us out to the White Dolphin, our Junk. On board we met the other passengers, including Todd.

The boat had dark stained wood and three floors. We were shown to our room on the first floor with a window looking out to the bay. The second floor had the dining area. Outside the dinning room you could walk around the second level deck and peak in at our captain who was usually bobbing his head in beat with funky electronic music. The third level was a sun deck. As we ate lunch we headed out of the harbor, towards our first stop at a cave.

The small boat, towed behind the Junk, took us to on of the karst islands where we explored a large, non-living cave with three rooms, each larger than the next. On the way back to the boat we walked along the karst about 20 feet above the water. A woman below was selling drinks and snacks from a small row boat. A much cheaper option, I bought some beers for our dinner later that night. She used a plastic bag tied to a rope where to exchange the beer for my Vietnamese Dong. Back on the Junk we headed to another area for kayaking. We unloaded into our kayaks and headed to an opening in one of the islands. Once through we found ourselves in a beautiful, quite lagoon. April and I paddled around taking in calmness and tranquil surroundings. Kayaking became my favorite Ha Long Bay experience.

As the small boat motored back to our anchored Junk more woman rowed up to us selling their goods. As the sun set and we all retired to our rooms before dinner you could boat after boat rowed up to the windows and women would yell with high voices, "Hello! You buy something! Hello!" They were persistent to say the least.

The next morning we woke up early to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the karst islands obscured any view we had of the actual sun be we watched as the sky grew lighter and lighter. After our breakfast our guide took us to a famous island that Ho Chi Minh named after a Russian athlete. We hiked up to a pavilion at the top with beautiful views of the bay.

1 comment:

  1. So glad that you got the chance to go to Ha Long. It really is a magically place. Interesting that there was an extra charge at the Water Puppet theater. We didn't have that experience. I'm not sure that it would have matter though. The Germans would have broken those rules anyway.