Once in a while you could see floating wooden houses where locals cultivated pearls.
Some locals came on board selling pearls and jewels with pearls on them. I was not interested, so I didn't pay much attention to shapes, quality and prices, but they must be really cheap, I guess...
New Money. New French Palace.
Haiphong. Mafia Town.
Think of Grimsby.
Think of an old French town. Fading yellow stone wash, red wine and farmers.
Think of town centre chateaus and customs houses, all renaissance. Just like Paris. But tiring out gracefully.
Think of Ha Noi; tree lined boulevards, early morning sun rays pouring through the leaves. Indochine, forty years gone.
Chuck in motorbikes and a bit of horn blowing.
Chuck in a pile of new money.
Chuck in heinous vernacular architecture out on the ring road.
You’ve got Hai Phong.
Sin Chow (Hello)
We just got back from Halong Bay at 4:30 PM today. It was wonderful. Ha Long Bay is an UNESCO World Heritage site that the Vietnamese call the 'descending dragon'. It's a truly remarkable place. In a relatively small area there are 3,000 island mountains that protrude straight up from the sea.
We 'lived' on a two story wooden boat with giant red sails and a dragon head in the front. It looked a bit like an ancient wooden barge. The ground floor had about 10 cabins and the second floor had the dining room (again all
in wood) with big open windows. You could go up on the roof and sunbathe or just enjoy the sights but I spent most of my time by the giant dragon head in front of the boat watching the mountains go by.
We spent most of our time cruising by 'dragon boat' (the Vietnamese call the boats we were on 'Junks') in and out of the mountains. It was amazing.
Gill and I were also able to kayak while we were there. I talked her into going pretty far out into one of the floating villages but I couldn't talk her into stopping and getting off, despite the calls from several men inviting us in.
Because the mountains are so steep they are inhabitable. The people in the area live in floating villages, living off the sea. They have little floating shacks that they tie up their little boats. You can see them on their little two-person boat at night using a big light to attract the fish to catch. During the day they are home working on their 'fish farms.' They have large grids in front of their houses that from the surface look like large blue oil drums connected with planks. Under the water, there are nets in which they raise fish. Some of them also grow and harvest cultured pearls in this same way. There bright little shacks, with a backdrop of the mountains, left me breathless. Wait till you see the pictures!
We also stopped at Thien Cung Caves ('cave of the heavenly palace') which was on one of the islands and was once underwater. It was your 'normal' tourist cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites but much larger than
anything I've ever seen. You could put a 10 story building in one cathedral easily.
I met a German woman, Suzanne, on the boat who was really interesting (she once took 2 years to camp around Africa). She said the bio-luminescence were amazing in Halong Bay and wanted to find someone to do a midnight swim with her (since you can only see their lights when it’s dark). I was the only one who said yes. It was AMAZING! We jumped in and everywhere we disturbed the water we saw little glowing dots. I believe they were a type
of plankton. If I waved underwater, it looked like I had sparklers on the end of my hands. In one place the plankton were especially heavy and when we were treading water the entire area around us glowed.
Gill was worried about things that go bump in the night, so I couldn't talk her into the water at night, but she said it looked pretty amazing from the safety of the boat. Frankly, I was more worried about all our garbage that I saw them dump in the water just a few hours before and being able to climb back into the boat without any help, than with the living things in the water itself.
Suzanne and I also slept on the roof. It was so hot in the room with the generator off (we only had electricity a few hours a day) and on the roof there was a wonderful breeze. I just brought up my pillow and a blanket and slept on a small mat. I would rather brave the mosquitoes on the deck then all the roaches in the room!
Looking down at a local in a boat