Our local guide filled us in on the legends behind Halong Bay on our three hour drive to the coast from Hanoi. Halong Bay is known as standing dragon bay – folklore says that the karsts (limestone formations) were created by a purring dragon to help protect Vietnam from Invaders. The limestone here is 500 million plus years old and has been shaped over millions of years by multiple inundations of sea, tectonics and wind. There are approximately 2300 limestone islands in the bay. The site is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
We arrived in Halong after passing through dozens of small towns and rice paddies. Some still being worked by oxen, others more mechanized. After picking up a huge bag of fresh oysters from the road side (the bay is a centre of extensive oyster farming) we headed for the pier and our junk. Once aboard we headed out to the centre of Halong Bay. Our first shore excursion was a vertical climb up to the lock out 400 meters about the Bay. The resulting panorama was incredible. Carol and i were surprised on the way up to the lookout with the volcanic intrusives that we saw – basalts and granite. Tremendous pressure has pushed bedding lines almost vertically. After a stunning sunset and bamboo boat trip around the lagoon inside one of the largest karsts we settled in for dinner. One interesting thing was a small population of monkeys on that karst. How they got into the middle of nowhere poses a question. Would be interesting to know if any genetic shift has occurred in the population.
There are hundreds of tour boats here – must be even more in high season. They throw their garbage right into the Bay which detracts from the experience . They did all look lovely at sunset though with their sails raised against the setting sun. Some cruised around the harbour this am with the passengers on the top deck having a Tai Chi class. Lovely misty morning. Vendors selling everything from fish to chips row around to the various boats throughput the day.
The food here is incredible (I keep saying that don’t I 🙂 ) – seafood, prawns, crab cakes, sautéed, squid, oysters, chicken curry, steamed vegetables, and it keeps coming…………….. Carol and I skipped the after dinner karaoke and had an early night – some members of the group boogied on until late with a karaoke machine. Was good late entertainment – they probably heard them in Hanoi :-)))
Today we explore a cave – with stalactites and stagalmites – tites go down, mites go up 🙂 wonderful visit – first large cave I have been in. It was found by the French around 1900 – a boat was driven into the bay due to bad weather. A crew member climbed a tree to get his bearings and look for food. He fell out of the tree and then into a hole that rolled him into the cave. There are three large caverns – hope that the photos do them justice.
Headed back to Hanoi to catch a sleeper train to Hue. Hope to be able to charge electronics and find some WIFI on the way somewhere. Found the WIFI 🙂 In and out but hope this will go.