The Traveling Steve's

Sailing Halong Bay

It’s 11:30pm and I just finished a short video on Halong Bay, which I uploaded to You Tube.  Hopefully the You Tube police won’t flag it for content like they did my Bangkok video as I used a song I legally purchased and added it as background music.  Normally You Tube lets you use the song, but will run ads in the background which is fine with me; I’m not doing this for commercial reasons.  Anyway, my video link is at the end of this blog.

Halong Bay is in northern Vietnam, a couple hours drive from Hanoi, and is absolutely stunning in beauty.  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has been cleaned up over the years by the local government, relocating most of its ‘boat residents’ to the shore, offering paid housing on land in the process, as well as better opportunities for education. There are still floating villages in Halong Bay, although the number has dwindled over the years, one of which villages you can see in the video.

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On our tour bus ride to Halong (also written as Ha Long) Bay, we made a stop at an upscale combo rest area/Vietnamese Market/restaurant etc, which had offered many handmade (and expensive) works of art.  They specialized in silk products, (although you could buy huge marble statues and sculptures as well) and you can see the artists making the silk items in the front of the multi-room showcase.

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IMG_1448 We bought a few things there, but our favorite is this handmade silk tapestry of Halong Bay which we had professionally framed and matted when we got home; a wonderful souvenir of the area.  Here is DOS in the store with the Vietnamese sales lady.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, the silk tapestry is on a firm canvas, which she rolled up for us so we could bring it home on the plane.

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As we continued on our drive to Halong Bay we passed past many rice fields, where you could see people working in them.

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As we approached Halong Bay, it was an overcast day, but you could still see the beauty of the water, islands, and boats as viewed from our bus.

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Once at Halong Bay, you have to board a boat to get to your ‘Junk Boat’, a short sailing away.

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We went to Halong Bay as part of a 16 night AMA Waterways River cruise and land tour of Vietnam and Cambodia.  The Halong Bay excursion was a one night stay on a ‘Junk Boat’ prior to flying to Cambodia and boarding our AMA Dara river cruise.  The “IndoChina Sails” Junk Boat we stayed on in Halong Bay was truly First Class, offering luxurious accommodations and meals.  By the name ‘Junk Boat’ I guess I was expecting dorm-like accommodations, but this was quite a nice surprise. We had a private bathroom (with bathtub) and high quality toiletries, TV, phone, bottled waters, an even a walkout balcony on our 2nd floor room 206.

IMG_1489We had a wonderful lunch, dinner, and breakfast on our one night stay aboard. We also had a fun wine tasting prior to dinner with 8 different wines offered as well as appetizers, which was a great way to meet the fellow passengers (and loosen them up a bit!)

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Bar on Junk boatIMG_1496Junk crewWe took a boat excursion (i.e. a boat from our boat to another boat!) to the floating village before the wine tasting and dinner, and sailed aboard a six passenger ‘row boat’, rowed by a local villager once there.  For our journey,  we were rowed by a woman, who while she didn’t speak English, we could quickly tell she had children living in the boat across the way.

IMG_1529 (1) While rowing, she was shouting across the bay to her small children who were getting into a small row boat, presumably from their shipboard home or possible floating school.  It was quite an eye-opener; this simple life for them, but perhaps without all the stresses of the American everyday life with its materialism and rush.  Living in this picturesque setting, they seemed happy at this life; probably all they have ever known, and yet not apparently missing any of the everyday ‘luxuries’ we take for granted.

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Looking back now at these pictures and video, it brings back such happy memories.  Thinking about those children now, their mother, and the others – they’re still there in Halong Bay, living the simple life. No electricity or running water, fishing for food, and rowing the tourists around their tiny village.  Yes, we’re all one people, made by the same God looking down on us.  May they be blessed with all they need I pray as I wind down the night reflecting on the memories of those I met, and the beauty of Halong Bay.  Thank you for the memories, and may God bless you all.

Here’s a link to the video I made of Halong Bay:

 

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