Friday, April 23, 2010

Halong Bay - need I say anything else?

This morning we all piled in the bus and headed out to Halong Bay. Halong Bay is usually what you see when Vietnam is pictured, especially in travel ads.

Halong Bay is made up of an archipelago of limestone cliffs sticking up in the water. There are over 3,000 islands and it covers an area of 580 square miles. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is in the running for the "new" 7 wonders of the world.

The ride is a good 2 hour trek, so to entertain ourselves, we played SE Asia Bingo. We had to find typical SE Asian activities along our ride. Some of the "squares" included: 30 or more motorbikes parked side-by-side; pedestrian playing "frogger" w/ traffic; family of 3, 4, and 5 on a motorbike; rider w/ a pig; people squatting in an outdoor cafe; and motorbike w/ something piled 10 feet high on the back.

Pedestrians playing Frogger is the best way to explain how to cross the street in Vietnam. There are crosswalks, but no one uses them or pays attention to them. Instead, you slowly walk out into traffic and the cars, trucks, bikes and motorbikes move around you. It is scary as hell, but it works. One guy was just standing in the middle of traffic taking pictures and traffic just moved around him w/ no problem.

On our way to Halong Bay we stopped off at a handicraft location staffed by charity folks. They made many different things including marble sculptures, lacquered paintings, and silk embroidered paintings. The silk embroidery was beautiful and most folks bought something. I bought 2 little pieces for gifts and 2 larger ones for myself. One of the larger ones is a fisherman on the river at sunset in shades of green. The second larger one I got is similar to a monet w/ bright colored flowers and a stone arched bridge over a creek. Not sure where I'll put it yet, but we'll see.

I don't know how else to explain Halong Bay, but that it is absolutely breathtaking. We took a private cruise on a boat and spent a few hours cruising thru just a tip of the islands. The islands are as high as 100-150 meters, and reminded me of the cliffs on the Palisades (NJ). They were about the same height. I took so many pictures since each turn we made revealed even more beautiful scenes.

While cruising the bay, we made a stop at a huge cave with amazing stalagmites and stalactites. The cave was called Hang Thien Cung and is what they call a hanging cave. It was about 50m above sea level and contained lots of dripping stalactites (think sand castles), solid rock pillars and stumpy stalagtites.

When the cruise was over, we got back on the bus and settled in for our LONG ride home. Not even 45 minutes into our trek home, the bus stopped. Apparently a large truck was sticking out into the road blocking traffic. Forget the fact that the construction guys hauling the HUGE concrete blocks off the truck were wearing flip flops and no hard hats. What happened next was organized chaos gone awry. I mentioned earlier that there are no traffic rules and yet everything seems to go smoothly w/o incident. Yeah right. There was no one here to manage traffic, so oncoming traffic (trucks, cars,buses, mopeds all at once) just kept going moving toward us blocking the way. Then trucks and mopeds stared creeping up on us creating an insane traffic jam. It was so crazy you just had to laugh! It took us almost an hour to get thru the madness.

We are now finally on our way home. Not sure if we'll still be doing dinner since we are so late, but I'll be crashing early b/c we are up before dawn to catch a 6:30 flight to Hue in the central part of the country. I can't believe we are already leaving Hanoi. The time went much quicker than I had expected.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


CariP said...

You need to add a "followers" link to your blog!! I'm enjoying "traveling" with you!

Robin said...

Glad to have you along for the ride! I'll try to figure out how to do "follower" thing.