Travel Journal

Halong Bay Mon 11 – Weds 13 July

(Wednesday 3 August 2011) by Julia Bartholomew
After China, I felt I’d arrived on the backpacker trail in Hanoi, as Vietnam is clearly much more aware of its opportunities for tourism (I believe it’s the greatest source of income into Vietnam) and Hanoi is full of small tour operators. I wanted to visit Halong bay and the only practical way of doing this is to join a tour. I’m told the place is controlled by a mob so it’s virtually impossible to get there of your own accord. I spent a couple of peaceful days on the deck of our wooden ship (‘the sunburn deck’ as our guide called it, I think due to a mistake in English rather than concern for our fair complexions). We kayaked around a floating village, peering nosily into peoples’ water-borne homes, explored caves and dived off the top of the boat, plunging into the warm, soupy sea. Some of the more enthusiastic wanted to dive in at midnight on the first night and were told it wasn’t allowed and that police survey the bay and the guide took the opportunity to remind us of an incident earlier in the year when 12 people were killed in Halong Bay when their boat sank and there weren’t enough life jacket- a bedtime story to ensure sweet dreams! Anyway, we woke up dry and still afloat on two consecutive mornings before the 4-hour bus ride back to Hanoi to catch my sleeper bus to Hue, a 14-hour journey down to the central coast of Vietnam.


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