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Halong Bay

August 25, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Halong Bay Junks *** All images taken with Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens ***

After my time in Sapa I passed back through Hanoi briefly before going out to Halong Bay for an overnight boat trip. They sell these trips by the number of days, but this also includes the 4 hour each way drive from Hanoi, so effectively a 2 Day 1 Night tour means only 1 full day on the boat. And if the weather turns bad the trips are often cancelled, or in my case, cut short. Apparently the best time of year to visit the bay is April. The weather is cooler, there's no humidity and little chance of rain or typhoons. Winter can be quite foggy, which makes photography pretty difficult.

There are a lot of tour operators in Halong Bay, which makes choosing a tour a challenge, but in the end I went with Indochine. They're not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for and the boat was lovely (Dragon Pearl III) {don't be fooled by the sails though...there's not enough wind for sailing, so these are for the tourist photos only!}, the room was large and clean, the aircon was perfect (and necessary in summer), the staff were friendly and the food was fine (although it had been westernised and lacked the full flavour that Vietnamese food should have, and I had to add fish sauce to give it a bit more oomph!). They have their own island with a beach that they take their boats to, so it's not as overcrowded as in other areas of the bay. I'd read a lot of negative comments about the water pollution and rubbish in the area caused by the tour operators, and while I saw a small amount of rubbish floating by, it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, but that may be because Indochine go a different route than the bulk of the others.

Apart from the bumpy road trip to and from the bay, and the mildly torturous water puppet show on the way back, I really enjoyed the trip. The archipelago of limestone karsts rising up out of the water really is beautiful...and it was really peaceful. The boats are pretty quiet and cruise with enough distance between them to allow you to enjoy the space and ambience. There are several floating villages nestled amongst the karsts and we did a quick side-trip to visit one of the larger ones. They survive by fishing and pearl farming, and it was nice to see that there was a small school, which had been financially supported by an Australian school.

The big highlight for me was the amazing sunset. The murky hazy afternoon sky looked very uninspiring, and then it gave way to a kaleidoscope of oranges and reds. I shot far too many frames, but it kept changing colour every minute and I couldn't help myself! This was one of the few times I wish I'd had a wider angle lens so I could capture more of the landscape. The following slideshow takes you through my journey:

On the way back to Hanoi we made a forced stop at a Water Puppet show. While this may be a cultural experience, it's doesn't rank that highly on the excitement scale! I'll let you be your own judge. Apologies for hand-holding the camera...it makes it just that much more torturous :)

 

 


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