Friday, February 8, 2008

Halong Bay

With the weather not cooperating and Tet limiting the transportation and lodging options, we cut back on our original plan to tour Halong Bay and stay on Cat Ba Island. Instead, we decided to do a day trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay and spend five hours on the water. The downside is that you spend more time on a bus getting there and back than you do on the boat, but the upside is the cost savings.

So we have gotten used to seeing the UENESCO World Heritage description throughout our travels, and rarely do the places disappoint. Halong Bay is certainly no exception. As much as we enjoyed Tam Coc, Halong Bay is in another league. The limestone formations are gigantic and dot the horizon. Again, the presence of a foggy mist improved the land/seascape. Even with a number of boats on the water, the places seems tranquil and slightly spooky. And, unlike Tam Coc, the boat we were on had a sheltered area below deck to warm up in.

Apart from the bay itself, the tour included a visit to a cave on one of the uninhabited islands. The cave itself is impressive with one major caveat--it is not exactly in it's natural state. There are neon lights under various rocks, they have cemented over the ceiling of the cave (which, ironically, will destroy the cave) and have installed fountains throughout. I imagine it looked like what Carlesbad Caverns would look like if it was run by a Disney/P.T. Barnum joint venture.

But back on the boat, we completed our tour with a large meal and some good company. The day seemed the perfect calm before the impending storm of Tet.


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