Day 258 – 259 (19th & 20th May) – Halong Bay

6 06 2011

We were well warned that Halong Bay might not live up to our expectations. It didn’t even live up to our diminished expectations. I can’t even say why; it had all the ingredients for the wow factor – set in a calm ocean bay, magnificent tall limestone spires jutting vertically out of the water, lush green vegetation and a lovely warm climate.

I think being a UNESCO world heritage sight, most of the tourist boats are sent to one small part of the 1,553 square kilometre bay. This probably preserves the quality of the rest of the bay, however turns the part we were visiting into a bit of a dump. The place was a little overcrowded with junks (traditional local boats) and full of litter. The weather is notoriously unpredictable in this area and is often hazy, making clear skies and good visibility a rarity.

We spent most of our time on the boat but did take trips off to visit Sung Sot Cave, climb one of the high limestone pinnacles and do some kayaking in the bay taking heed of the advice not to swim in the polluted waters. The kayaking could have been a little dangerous as we were left to explore the area alone and once out of sight of the boat, one limestone pinnacle looks a lot like another and getting lost becomes a real possibility. This is exactly what happened to a small group of kayakers we saw lost in the bay way after sunset. Our boat captain didn’t stop to help them out… they say on a quiet night in the bay you can hear their cries for help…

In contrast to the lacklustre Halong Bay we did meet some very nice people on board the boat, one such person was an unfortunate elderly solo female traveller with a tenuous New Zealand connection. She had unfortunately broken her wrist on Cat Bo Island so Jen and I offered to take her to the hospital back in Hanoi. The whole ordeal made us realise we were wholly unprepared for such an event – not having our insurance details close to hand.

Our life boat..!

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