Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vietnam (NW) - Ha Long Bay



Vietnam (NW) - Ha Long Bay

After only a day in Hanoi I was on my way to Ha Long Bay - via a $44 tour (for three days and two nights - including all meals).
Ha Long Bay (Descending Dragon bay) is a one of Vietnam's World Heritage site.The bay features thousands of limestone outcrops and isles in various sizes and shapes.

Funny enough I ran into a German girl I had briefly met in Laos - Silvia. We took different boarder crossings, but ended up in Hanoi the same day + booked the same tour :) Many tourists come to Ha Long Bay and seemingly hundreds of boats take off into the Gulf of Tonkin each day. All the ships are large wooden constructions, similar in look to pirate ships. The top deck is ideal to hang out on and enjoy the thousand limestone islands passing you by.

Included in the tour were two caves, but after Laos its hard to get exited about yet another cave. The canoe trip while the sun was setting is a must when in this area. The first night was spend on the ship - great fun with some local beer and vodka, three ipods and a group of Canadians :)

The next day we stopped in Cat Ba Island. Almost half of the island is a national Park. We took a two hour hike with a local guide for most of the way (its not advisable to go on longer treks by yourself, as travelers have gotten seriously lost in the park). The treks are pretty tough and slippery after a couple drops of rain - towards the top it helps if you enjoy rock climbing - but the view from the top is worth the buckets of sweat - simply beautiful to see all the lush green mountains, in midst of the sea.

In the afternoon we explored the rest of the island via small motorbikes (only 50,000 VD = $3). I discovered that you can learn how to drive a manual motorbike fairly easy - just stay in third gear the entire time... and taking passenger with you is learned fairly easy as well. The only danger is the rest of the traffic, since street signs or other traffic regulating measures are nonexistent .. taking it slow helps avoid accidents :)

The nights in Cat Ba Island are easily spend in the local Karaoke bars and at the mystic looking beach. Just remember to take off your jeans before you go for a swim around here - it takes about 5 days for them to dry and they will not smell pleasant.

Back in Hanoi for only a couple of hours I took off to Sapa ...

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