Halong Bay – Northern Vietnam

The next day… We took a 4-hour drive from Hanoi north and east to Halong City early in the morning.  It was enjoyable viewing the countryside and the many hundred year old villages along the way.   The housing in northern Vietnam seems to be better quality than what we had seen in the south.  We were told that the North Vietnamese spend more of their money on their homes, where the South Vietnamese “like to party and are lot lazier.”    Humm!  Wonder where this comment came from?

Beautiful Gardens on the ride north

Beautiful Gardens we viewed on our ride north to Halong Bay.  No wonder the food here tastes so delicious!

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Beautiful gardens along the way

More beautiful gardens along the way.  I think our driver got a little tired of us wanting to stop and look at vegetables.

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We boarded our traditional Vietnamese “junk”  about mid-day and were greeted with a sumptuous luncheon of fresh seafood, while getting underway on our cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay (the less crowded northern part of Ha Long Bay).

The fascinating rock formations rising up out of the bay, literally every direction we looked, had us both enthralled.  As Gary exclaimed, “a veritable geologists garden!”.

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The changes formations

Fascinating limestone formations.   And hardly ANY other boats around in this unique part of the Bays.

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Views were incredible

Views were incredible.

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Another spectacular morning

Ho hum: just another spectacular morning before breakfast.

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Limestone

(it was beginning to get very hard to describe this trip; we ran out of superlatives)

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In the afternoon we anchored in a  small bay and took a kayak trip around one of these large limestone formations.  Great break in our routine: we loved being back in a kayak again!  But it was too cold to do any swimming …

Easy kayaking on the calm bay.

Easy kayaking on the calm bay.  But notice that Evie is wearing her good northwestern gore-tex to stay warm!

Returning to the boat

Paddling back  to the boat for dinner in the late afternoon sun.

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Our boat

Our boat, and her sister ship on anchor.

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like our junk

A view from our kayak as we rounded another limestone island.

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Great kayaking

Stunning sights around every rock.

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It was heavenly relaxing on-board this vessel, and visiting with other passengers who were all very delightful.  A family from Australia, a couple from New Zealand,  a couple from the U.S. but living in India; another couple working in Singapore; and a newly-wed couple on their honeymoon from Perth in western Australia.

One of the absolute best parts of traveling, we always find, is the interaction with so many of our fellow travellers we meet  from all around the globe.  That, and visiting with those who live in the areas we traverse, learning about their culture and traditions, is really the sum total of why we do travel.

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Party Time

Party Time after a kayak trip.  The Vietnamese waiters were having fun at Gary’s expense, since he  “is so old yet strong!”   UnHuhhh ….

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Did we say it was incredible!

Did we say it was incredible! . . .

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And relaxing...

. . . And relaxing   (although a bit chilly even for seasoned Oregonians)

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Happy Hour

Happy Hour on the ‘poop deck’.  These drinks were called “Dragon Pearls”

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Through the narrows

Through the narrows and into another secluded little harbor.

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We took small boats from the Junk next morning and visited a floating fishing village. There aren’t many of these in the combined area of the bays,  but the Vietnamese  government had made a concerted effort in recent years to move all the floating homes from these villages to only a few concentrated areas of the bay.  Ostensibly to ‘provide better living conditions and government services’ to the people who reside in them.

Here they raised oysters for cultured pearls, along with practicing their traditional fishing techniques, in the waters of the bay.  There was a school here for up to grade 6, and other communal buildings.  They really did seem to have everything they needed for a satisfying and productive life.  As a result of their location within the confines of these sheltered limestone stack formations, they are protected from the rage of typhoons which  often make their way through this part of Vietnam.

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Floating Fishing Village

Floating Fishing Village with their ‘water taxi’s

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Many fishing boats

A Vietnamese approach to gill-netting.

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School room

School room in the floating village – no school today as it was Saturday.

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Market for locals

The local 7-11 !!

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The woman paddled us around in these boats

Women paddled us around in these small crafts, though this one is just ferrying some supplies for her family.

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View through an arch created by a limestone cave which collasped.

View through an arch created by a limestone cave, which then collapsed opening a low-bridge channel between adjoining bays.

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inside cave

Interesting local art in the floating fish village:  made from dried leaves, some varnish and fish scales!

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These two and a half days on the water were so relaxing.   Kayaking (could have swam, but too cold), visiting the fishing villages, enjoying the beautiful scenery, good times with new friends, and gorgeous sunsets,  and a very special dinner in a limestone cave.  It was simply magical!

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Beautiful sunset before dinner

Beautiful sunset at anchor the second evening aboard, just before dinner.

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Sunset

Sunset while we were still paddling . . .

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Dusk

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Path to cave

And then this unique dinner!  We walked up the side of a cliff on one of these limestone islands (on steps cut out of the rock) and were greeted by smiling, singing, staff from our ship, as we entered the cave.

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Dining room

“Dinner is served”!    around an elegantly set dining table beneath the stalactites.   We were speechless.

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Chef's creation our of melon and carrots

And then there was FOOD.   The Vietnamese Chef carved elaborate “food sculptures” from various vegetables to accompany each course of the meal.

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One presented with each course

Herons, dragons, sea eagles: — all exquisite creations.

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A romantic heart of candles

Very romantic night.

Moonlight as we returned to boat

Moonlight as we returned to our Junk.

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Vietnam

Vietnam.   We love it!

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About Smiling Road Warriors!

2 happy retirees, movin' along . . .
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