The Beautiful Tourist Trap

Trip Start Oct 05, 2010
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Trip End Nov 24, 2010


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Flag of Vietnam  , Quảng Ninh,
Saturday, October 9, 2010

A trip cut short

After some searching, we realized that flights from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City were completely full. No chance of leaving on the 11th, like we had planned, and we didn’t want to wait until the 12th to leave, because that would mean less time in HCMC and Cambodia. So we booked a flight for the morning of the 10th. Unfortunately, this meant that 1) We would miss the festival which was the night of the 10th, 2) We would have one less day in Hanoi, and 3) That would mean one less day in Ha Long Bay. So we booked a day trip to Ha Long Bay, instead of the 2 day/1 night sleeping on the boat which we would have liked to do. But I still think we made the right decision.

On to the bay

So we got picked up at our hotel in a 12-person “A/C” van. After a 3 hour drive and walking through crowds of other tourists, we got on the boat and it took a while to get into the actual bay, but the rock formations were about as stunning as one would expect, if you have ever seen pictures of it.

This was the snap-tons-of-pictures part of the tour. Ha Long Bay is very beautiful, and is just one those iconic things that I think of, when I think of Southeast Asia. And because of all of the humidity, the islands also have that layered effect, where they fade out in the distance.

Lunch

We stopped at a small floating fishing village (of which there are many throughout the bay), and had a chance to buy some extremely overpriced seafood, swimming in nets in the water. And then we went to have lunch, which was a huge spread of fish, tofu, octopus, veggies, rice, etc. And then we had 30 minutes to kayak around the bay and try to find a cave nearby. Well, with Joel and me in a kayak, try was all we did. Our viewing of a cave was closer in relation to wandering around aimlessly and arguing the entire time.

From the cave to the hotel

Next we went to an enormous cave, that seemed to be very popular, and for good reason. There were all sorts of stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations, revealing almost anything that you could imagine. After a hike back down to the boat and a ride back to the harbor, we got back in the van and went back on the way to Hanoi.

We were getting into Hanoi at around 9:00 that evening, on the night before the last day of the big 1,000-year anniversary festival. So things were a little hectic. The most hectic I’ve ever seen anywhere. By the time we got over the bridge and closer to the city, we weren’t even moving. So our guide showed everyone a general way to get back to their hotels, and we all just took the rest of the way on foot. It took us a while to get back, because in many places it was shoulder to shoulder people, and it was about as easy getting around as at a very crowded bar.

Notes on Ha Long Bay

As you may have been able to tell from my description above, Ha Long Bay has A LOT of tourists. The tour company we went with (which I assume is very similar to the others) seemed to be rushing us from one place to the next, and it was clearly a standard tour that all the other boats were taking as well. The people of the fishing village seem to peddling for the tourist dollar, and there are large hotels springing up all around. It really is sad, as I’m sure there used to be a lot more charm to this area, and it wasn’t just so much of a tourist destination.
Still, I think it’s just one of those places that you know is ridiculously touristed, but you still have to go. It really is very beautiful, and an interesting place that I was glad to see.

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