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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Halong Bay

Before I can tell you about Ha Long Bay I need to tell you a little bit about our struggle with British television.

Stay with me, I swear it'll make sense in a minute.

From the first day that we got to London we have struggled to find good, quality tv shows of the British variety. Maybe it's us or maybe it's them (must be them), but we just don't understand British tv shows. This topic could be a post - a series of posts actually - of its own but I won't bore you now.  I'll save that for another day.  One of the few British shows that we have taken a liking to (read: can tolerate for longer than fifteen minutes...too harsh?) is Top Gear.  If you have BBC America you might have seen it.  We saw their special on Vietnam Motorbiking within a few months of living in London, and that show planted the seed of making Vietnam our honeymoon destination.

See, told you it would make sense.

And yes, we based the location of our honeymoon from a car show.  Stranger things have happened.

One of the places that they show on this Top Gear special is Ha Long Bay.  Located in the north-east coast of Vietnam, its is a large bay filled with hundreds and hundreds of limestone karst islands.

The islands seem to pop up out of nowhere, hiding behind each other and cropping up in random shapes and sizes.

Most of the islands were rough and scraggly.  They had trees and greenery but also ragged rocks and cliffs. You could see the most amazing patterns in the rock layers on some of the islands, the way that time had made the ground bow and bend, twist and turn.

We spent two days in Ha Long Bay (though with transit time it was really less than 24 hours) on a "traditional" junk boat (ie, built for tourists). But it was lovely none the less.

After tooling around the islands for a while we made a stop at one of the floating villages, actually the largest floating village in the Ha Long Bay area. I got out the super zoom lens and started creepin' on the village.

Yeah I said it...creepin'.


Don't judge me.

At least look at the pictures before you judge. Please?

As we made our way back to the main boat (our tour of the floating village was on a row boat, powered by one of the local villagers) the sun was starting to set. Combined with the hazy sky (that had been ever present during our entire stay in Vietnam) it created some amazing lighting.

Believe it or not, and I hope this doesn't sound too snotty, Ha Long Bay was actually a bit of a disappointment. We were SO PSYCHED for this portion of the trip, I think we built it up too much in our minds.  After twelve days of mostly hazy skies I was irritated that we couldn't see far off in to the distance and couldn't appreciate (or see) the scope of the islands in the bay. Our tour boat was nice but mostly for show, the food and staff were not that great. And in the end, Ha Long Bay is a massive tourist destination. There were dozens and dozens of boats exactly like ours floating around the same areas that we were, making it feel like a theme park rather than a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Now that I have that off my chest I do have to say that even though we were a bit disappointed, we were still SO glad that we were able to see and enjoy this magnificent place. Next time we'll just go when there are less during a typhoon.


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