Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Days 15-16: Halong Bay, Vietnam
Ha means river and Noi means within, so Hanoi means "within the river."
But despite the beautiful lake in Hanoi, it could not compare with the Bay at Ha Long, which literally means "Bay of Descending Dragons."
I took a $45 2 day/1 night junk cruise to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Included is round-trip transportion, 4 meals, accommodation at a hotel or a boat (I chose the boat). All in all, a very cheap price, even for fairly basic amenities.
Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site that the Vietnamese opened up to tourism only
roughly 20 years ago. In some ways, it's a shame, because this provides a lot of money and foreign currency for a country in development. On the other hand, I already felt as if there were too many tourists when I was there, and I cannot imagine how many there will be in the years to come, as this country continues to open up to the rest of the world.
The distance from Hanoi was only about 165 km. It took about 4 hours on a minibus if considering the one or two stops we made on the way there. Getting out of Hanoi took an hour alone due to the early morning traffic. The tourists on our bus--there were 20 people total--came from France (6), China (5), the USA, Japan, and Spain.
Halong Bay is a beautiful area with 1969 limestone islands jutting imposingly upon the skyline. Only about half of the islands have names.
Enjoy the pictures.