This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island

Oceans of hardwood tour boats

14th Oct 2006 This is a photo blog so you can all enjoy the experience of a trip across Halong Bay to Cat Ba Island overnight and back through the Bay by another route next day. The bay was absolutely beautiful. Thousands of Karst islands popping up with caves inside and natural arches worn by the dissolving sea. It is really extensive like the Norwegian fjords and peppered with floating fishing villages.

At the end are a few shots of the countryside on the train journey south to Hue.

The Halong tour was fraught with the same sorts of hassles as in Tibet, being passed from a travel agent to a tour agent who doesn't recognize the payments. Our hotel solved it simply by signing the passenger sheet but a whole group of people on the boat had to pay again or be thrown off summarily at the island, although I heard the travel agent who was in default was going to give them a refund after they took it up by cell phone.

Taking off into the Bay through the 'armada'

A rough trip route

The lunch each day was a splendid turn on of Vietnamese dishes
of fish, meat, vegetables, spring rolls and rice
served so everyone got a taste of everything.

They also stopped so we could visit the limestone caves, take small boat journeys through some ocean grottoes, swim, and go kayaking.

Arriving at the caves, which were used as a military hospital during the siege of Hanoi

Looking out from the caves

Looking back from the caves through the jungle towards Ha Long

Panorama of Islands in the Bay

Floating fishing and fish farming villages

Women selling fresh tropical fruits

Going by small boats through some of the caverns linking enclosed bays

Panorama of the many islands

Kayaking at sunset

In the evening some stayed on the boat in air+con double cabins but we had the slightly cheaper option and were ferried into Cat Ba town for a comfortable night in a hotel, which gave us more space and freedom.

Panorama of Cat Ba harbour

Outside there was a little Bar called the "Flightless Bird" - aka Kiwi. This small bar is located along the western stretch of the seafront and is run by a guy from New Zealand who may have once been a policeman. It's a very popular place for tourists and backpackers to hang out at.

Cat Ba is by far the largest island and abuts closely back to Haiphong. There is also a major jungle national park on Cat Ba, but we didn't have time to visit it.

Yeolche's outstanding view of the Karst interior of Cat Ba National park

Waiting for the return boat for Ha Long

A floating suburb

Islands on the return journey

Panorama of the return vista further out in the Bay

Ha Long in the distance

Return to Hanoi. Very narrow tall Vietnamese buildings are everywhere
because the initial plots had very short street frontages.

The train left on time, was crisply air conditioned, and gave a comfortable secure ride, with a couple of young girls and a honeymooning couple as companions. Just like the Chinese hard sleepers they had hot water, so we could have noodles and tea or coffee on demand, except even better, you could close and lock everyone in the six berth cabin instead of just pulling a curtain over, as in China.

Scenes on the train to Hue in the morning going down the coast

Graves of the ancestors encroach the landscape everywhere the eye glances

There are many simple but comfortable looking farm houses

Sand and dune areas invade sections of the coastal strip

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