Vietnam: Day Three – Halong Bay

Today I drove from Hanoi to Halong Bay. The drive was interesting. You can see a picture of the person riding the water buffalo we saw along the side of the road in the rice patties. Apparently this road was frequently heavily bombed by the US during the Vietnam war as it was used to transport munitions within the country.


Why the hell were we ever in this place, killing these people?!

Interestingly, Nam said the Vietnamese hold less of a grudge against the US or France for their war efforts. However, the Vietnamese, to this day, still dislike the Chinese, who were the first to dominate their country many years ago. The US dollar or the dong is commonly accepted for payment here.

Perhaps one reason so many of the Vietnamese have been willing to forgive and forget is that about 60% of the country was born after 1975—their version of a baby boom.

We stopped at a “factory” where the workers are handicapped children (mostly deaf or blind) and people who have suffered horrific war injury from agent orange. They make some spectacular embroidery work. A gorgeous large piece of it will be hanging on the living room wall when I return home.

I’m in a world I never knew existed. I’m currently sitting on the balcony of a wooden junk (boat) someplace in Halong Bay, Vietnam, looking at the view you see pictured in this post. This place is magical, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, the land formations are peculiar other-worldly protrusions of limestone, covered with lush jungle foliage, from a placid, emerald-green sea. The thick cloud cover adds a special sense of mystery, almost a dream-like state.

Yesterday, those of us aboard the junk disembarked and walked through a large cave on one of the 2,000 islands. Only 900 of them have been named. But the end of the day was most spectacular. Everyone boarded tiny little boats and had teenagers paddle us through a fishing village floating in the sea. These people live here.

In my wildest imaginations, I would never have envisioned that people live like this: fishermen living in tiny houseboats floating in Halong Bay. We saw many, many young children. Even at age 2 and 3 they were adept at climbing up boat masts and running along the edges of very small bobbing boats with, of necessity, a flawless sense of balance.

My greatest shock was seeing a floating school in Halong Bay and realizing that I had seen a picture of this very school in 2008 and even posted it to my professional blog on May 8th, 2008, never imagining that just under 2 years later I would actually see the very thing with my own eyes.

Part of the World Heritage, Halong Bay is spectacular beyond belief!

Click here for a list of all of the posts from this trip to Vietnam.