Our Facebook

Monday, April 9, 2012

Karst Mountains in the Sea: Halong Bay

Halong bay is where the karst mountains, the same we saw in Yangshuo and near the Perfume Pagoda, rise from the sea, resulting in more amazing scenery. We took a 3 day Halong Day tour from Hanoi

It takes 4 hours for the bus to take us to Halong city, where we step on board for a tour through the bay. Despite the mediocre weather, the scenery is great. We are most amazed by the erosion at the base of the karst structures. Some of them look as if they might collapse anytime.

Halfway through the boat trip, we set foot on one of the 3000 islands in the bay. Here we visit a cave with numerous stalagmites and stalagtites, underground rivers, and lakes. And after the second half of the boat trip, we arrive at Cat Ba island, where we will stay for two nights.

Cat Ba town

Cat Ba town is a small village on Cat Ba island in Halong Bay. It has a harbor and lots of hotels. But in the low season, there are few tourists and little action. We attempt visiting some bars and discotheques, but they are as good as deserted. So we head back to the hotel where we chat with our fellow tour companions.
Cat Ba island consists of a National Park covering half the island. The second day of the tour start with a hike through it. We are put in an old, uncomfortable Russian bus. It first brings us to a cave, where a hospital was situated during the American war, and where the Vietnamese army stayed to attack American airplanes. A war veteran comments on life in the cave in these days. He also starts singing some war songs, accompanied by the Vietnamese clapping their hands. We are amazed by the enthusiasm, after all those years.

Hiking in Cat Ba National Park

After the musical intermezzo we move on to the Cat Ba National Park. We have a choice of a long or a short route, and choose the short one. It leads us up some steep, slippery paths, and we have to climb with hands and feet at some points. In the end we reach one of the highest peaks on the island with a nice view over the mountains. After enjoying it, we climb down, which is more difficult than up, but less exhausting. When we come back, we are glad not to have chosen the long route.

The afternoon is planned for a trip to the beach. Although the sun doesn't shine, we take a look around and we find two lovely bays with beaches and rocks. On our way to the beaches, we find a number of used injection needles. According to the bartender in the hotel, though, there is no drugs problem on the island

The third day of the tour is mostly spent by the trip back from Halong Bay to Hanoi. On the boat, we see the many floating houses in the harbor and around the islands. Our estimate is that half the population of Cat Ba lives in the water, close to the nets with which they earn their money. Some floating houses have an electricity wire to the shore, and even an antenna for TV reception.

Back in Hanoi, the weather got even colder. We are glad to move on to Hue the next day. Besides a little warmer, we hope this town is a little less crowded with motorbikes.


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More