Trip 2007: Halong Bay/VN

In order not to create wrong expectations, I would like to clarify at the beginning of this little article that we did not sail a single nautical mile during this short weekend trip. There was no wind at all, heavy rain with thunderstorm and on top of this, the boats are not really designed for sailing long distances in shallow waters with rocks all around. However, it was a wonderful feeling to be back on the water and stay for a night on a swimming five star hotel with perfect service – all inclusive.

We left Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia with the early morning flight and arrived in Hanoi/Vietnam before lunch. Same day was planned to absorb the beat of the town, which did not disappoint us at all. Hanoi is a place, where you can see how fast Asia is developing, but you can also see the gap between the old and the new. Pushbikes next to luxury cars, costly Versace originals next to dammed cheap North Face copies. Fascinating place and bargaining with the friendly and open people is seen to become a sportive culture.

Next day, we were picked up by the tour organiser to jump on the bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay, where the boat was waiting for us to board. In our naïve believe, we expected maybe a few boats with some dozen tourists but, as you can see on the photo, this is big big business and the number of busses and boats, no idea but an amazing crowd was trying to find its way to the right boat and cabin. Halong Bay is in north-eastern Vietnam at the border to China and it has a 120 kilometre long coastline with 1969 isles. The area admitted by UNESCO as world's natural heritage. The bay is in tropical wet area with 2 seasons: hot and moist summer, dry and cold winter. During our trip it rained a lot, as it was the beginning of the wet season. These boats are called Jung and they are originated from Chinese sailing vessels. You can read a lot on WIKIPEDIA about these boats, its hull and rudder design, sailing plan, etc. They were travelling across oceans as early as 2nd century.

Everything was organised very well and before the shock was “digested”, we were already on board our boat with the cabin key in one hand and the welcome drink in the other. After another 15 minutes the boats were leaving, almost altogether at the same time, in order to stay within the schedule.

Our cabin was tiny but clean with its own shower, aircon, etc. – no complains, well done. There were altogether about 6 cabins, so the maximum number of people around 12, which was a pleasure as over the two days we got in contact with everybody. Quite mixed group including a Professor from Brazil, business woman from France, business men from Hong Kong and Sweden, and last but not least a few tourists.

Lunch was served, and surprise surprise, five courses of different seafood, which was a great pleasure for myself and unfortunately some kind of diet for Susan.

We were leaving the harbour and started the cruise within these impressive lime rocks, which looked a little bit unreal in terms of scenery. There are a lot of mystics in this type of countryside and we were just watching and absorbing its uniqueness. Although we have also seen these lime rocks in Phuket/Thailand during our sailing experience earlier this year, in Halong Bay they are different; it is much more congested and there are a lot of local people living on the sea from the sea. As you can see from the photo, people have a little houseboat and very often also their fish farm installed next to the boat. Some other people move around on boats to sell all type of products, like a floating supermarket rowing from houseboat to houseboat selling from vegetables to souvenirs everything required for the local people but also for the tourists like ourselves.

During the two days cruise, we did not only anchor overnight but also went ashore at two places. The first was for having a swim in the Halong Bay and the second was to walk through one of the plenty caves, which are inside the rocks. This was very impressive but difficult to take photos with the equipment we had.

One of the highlights was definitely the canoeing. Susan and myself we jumped into one of the canoes and explored the areas together with the Swedish guys from Ericsson. No wonder that the Swedish are experts in canoeing and soon they were not seen anymore. We approached an area, which was not accessible for the big Junks and it was pouring but the rain, the air and the water temperature were very warm, so we got wet but not cold. But again, without a waterproof casing for the camera we did hardly dare to take photos. In the night we tried squid fishing but with no success. Myself not being very patient but even the more enthusiastic guys did not manage to catch a single squid.

After two days we went back to the harbour, where the bus picked us up and took us back to the airport. Overall, it was a nice experience and amazing area to explore together with having the opportunity to feel another Asian Tiger Country, which is developing very fast, not only within the tourism sector.

Best regards,
Your HP Crew
Susan & Bernd