Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hanoi - Halong Bay - Part I

Remarks: As Ha Long Bay has quite an interesting story plus quite a numbers of photos that I wish to share in this blog, I have decided to split into 3 separate entries. First being mostly about the journey, an itinerary and brief introduction about Ha Long Bay. Part 2 would be more about the floating village and the views why it is said to be as 1 out of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Lastly, about sharing the mythological story of the dragon and the place where it was claimed as his resident, the Thien Cung Grotto. We were amazed with the scenery of stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave. 

Part 1

A trip to Hanoi is not complete without a visit to the Unesco World Heritage site of Ha long Bay which is located about 165km from the Hanoi city.  Hạ Long Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Junk boat tours and sea kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islands. The region basically draws scuba divers, rock climbers and hikers. Most importantly, the hiker’s are attracted and would not miss an opportunity for a mountainous adventures at Cat Ba National Park.

The road to Ha Long Bay

The Toll Plaza

I have mentioned earlier on that we get the hotel to do necessary booking for us with a local tour agent, but thousand apologies readers as I have forgotten how much we paid for the trip. It was definitely slightly higher if comparing with the rest of our group who  came from many countries. We checked the price we paid while waiting for our guide to get a boat ticket. A Korean girl bought hers at the airport, others booked online from the travel agent website and as for the rest of us, through the hotel front desk.

A view along the journey - green green paddy field

When the travel is closer the karstic Islet

A comfortable tourist van of 12 person came to pick us up at the hotel lobby as soon as we finised our breakfast. We were the last couple to join the van. It took quite a long ride and I discovered that I left my camera in the hotel. It was so annoyingly disturbing that carelessness and I became inseparable. Anne was more than happy to share her camera with me as she will get to have more of her photo in her camera. The journey was quite lengthy and some of us chose to sleep during the ride whilst some made conversation and saying hello to a day stranger turn friends.

See the advert, and the comfortable van we ride. We snapped the photo just in case we lost the van while wandering inside the tourist complex

Free and clean toilet facilities

After about 2 hours of drive, the van stopped for toilet and coffee break. The stop was a tourist centre where everything sold in the huge complex are extremely expensive (I advised you not to shop at this place. You may do your shopping at the Hanoi Old Quarter). Should you craving for coffee and snacks, you could limit your spent only to that though the price was almost double. Beverages also were charged at higher rates than the outside market. This are the reasons why I tried to avoid taking tour with the travel agency. The have a contract with this kind of scam and business.

We continued our journey after everyone has get back to the van and by that time, we became friendlier with the rest of the group. Our guide, who has a quite unique name (so unique that I forgotten them... hehe) is very friendly and accommodating to our requests and nonsense. He was explaining about Ha long bay and sharing his proud about his country (everyone does that). He instantly became our good friend for a day.

Our tour guide for the day.. p/s: I was appointed as his assistant :)

The services that we paid are inclusive of all the transportation cost (to and from Ha Long bay and Hanoi city), the tolls, the lunch, all entrance fees but excluding the bamboo ride at the floating village. We were served with a seafood on the cruise. While enjoying our meal, we kept on looking outside the boat and were too eager to snap photos. Because of our excitement, I lost USD100 notes from my purse. Somebody (who happened to be in our group, sat next to me) has slipped his hand into my backpack and took out the money from my wallet while I was in the toilet and Anne was at that time snapping photos. Admittedly, it was equally my fault for leaving my bag unattended, simply trusting a stranger who I barely knew that sharing a friendly conversation in less than an hour.

I know... I should not be trusting. I discovered that the money was gone when we arrived at the floating village whereby we have to pay for the bamboo ride. Anne and I were both very shocked as we remembered well, how much USD currency we two had in our purse as we thought of spending them all in our last day in Hanoi. Someone, means ME has to paid for my own carelessness. And, yes, I am famous for it, my family are not surprised at all when I told them that I lost USD100 in Ha Long Bay and I also lost my Salvatore Ferragamo shade in Angkor Watt. They merely gave me a look "you deserve it mother, we were the one who has to take care of you whenever we were travelling with you".

The meal that cost me losing my USD100 :(

Anyway, some facts about the Ha Long Bay that I wish to share in the first part of the entry. In 1962, the Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism designated Hạ Long Bay as a 'Renowned National Landscape Monument'. 32 years later, in 1994, Hạ Long Bay was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its outstanding, universal aesthetic value. In 2000 the World Heritage Committee additionally recognised Hạ Long Bay for its outstanding geological and geomorphological value, and its World Heritage Listing was updated.

While boating in a bamboo boat
In October 2011, World Monuments Fund included the bay on the 2012 World Monuments Watch, citing tourism pressures and associated development as threats to the site that must be addressed. The goal of Watch-listing is to promote strategies of responsible heritage-driven development for a sustainable future. In 2012, New 7 Wonders Foundation officially named Halong Bay as one of New Seven Natural Wonders of the world. In addition, Hạ Long Bay is also a member of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World.

Until the next entry...
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