Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Harlong Bay & Cat Ba Island

Junk on Ha Long Bay
image by sridgway

We spent the night oboard a Junk on the waters of Halong Bay. A welcome respite from the scooter madness of Hanoi. There are 2000 or so limestone islands densly scattered throughout the bay. Many little more than rocky outcrops but there are larger islands like Cat Ba a very beautiful and tranquil space out on the water.

Ha Long Bay residents
image by sridgway

Some of the islands have caves, one of which we stopped over to have a look through.
We may have been spared the scooters but not the hawkers, with women in little boats selling their wares to those on the junks. These people have lived in this area for thousands of years living on rafts in small family groups. They have schools for their children but little more than basic litereacy. The women row from junk to junk selling their wares, often with their children onbord. It struck me that it is us who are invading their space with the endless junks with their hords of gorking tourists and disiel motors distubing the stillness of the night. It will be interesting to see how they fare over the next 10 years.

We spent our second day on Cat Ba Island, one of the larger islands on the bay. Has been populated for 100s of years by rural villagers who farm and fish for a living. Apparently it has a population of around 11, 000 now with development expanding at an exponential rate as many Hanoi residents have discovereed it as a summer holiday destination and foreign tourists look for an escape from the city.

We treked up a 250 m mountain through thick bush and slippery slopes to finally reach the top where we could get a good view of the sourounds. I climed the look out tower an rusty structure with a piece corragated iron roof flapping in the wind. Definieny not for the faint hearted.

Here is a video from the top

video by sridgway

I was great to get out of the city for a while and see some of the wonderful countyside.

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