Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SE Asia Day 12 - Halong Bay

Today would be our big Halong Bay tour day.
Halong Bay is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is so beautiful, one of the James Bond movies was filmed here. Pictures show an intoxicatingly exotic landscape created when a plateau of Pennsylvanian to Permian aged (340 to 240 million years old) limestone was uplifted, then, in the last 2 million years, deeply eroded, and finally, in the last 10,000 years, flooded by the Gulf Of Tonkin waters at the end of the last ice age.
We arranged a kayak trip through our hotel/resort WhisperNature Bungalow. After a pretty tiny breakfast of one eggy pancake and three cups of instant coffee, We cycled the 5k down to the dock and hopped one of the little boats again
To this place

A relatively clean outfit that we part fish farm, part kayak rental center, part boat dock, part restaurant, and part karaoke bar. W were fitted with a kayak and one old life vest and told to paddle west and be back in 3 hours for lunch!


So we headed out into the bay, trying to be cognizant of which oyster farms we were passing. To tell Tthese truth, most of them look the same, and I was glad my camera has a GPS that we could use if we really got lost.

this part of Halong Bay is filled with fishing vessels of all kinds and small oyster farm after small oyster farm. It seems the way it works is each farmer has a small shack, their home, surrounded by a scaffold of bamboo poles lashed onto styrofoam floats. Hanging from the scaffold are either nets where fish are fed until they are big enough to be harvested, or buckets filled with sand in which oysters are grown.

Plenty of rod fishing too.
Most of th shacks were pretty ragged and sad looking.


There were lots of different bots too.

We paddled down the channel a little ways to get away from the farms. We saw only a few birds, odd for how many fish we saw.

It was low tide, and the rock between high an low tide marks was covered with barnacles and crawling with little blue crabs.

We took a break on a secluded little beach for a bit.
But then it was back in the kayak
To go cave hunting. I had read there were many caves but we didn't find any real ones that you could explore.
We stopped at a possible cave spot, but ithe cave wasn't very big.
So the we went back for lunch. All this for 2 people!


There was fried tofu, potatoes and carrots in a tasty oil, sautéed cabbage, cucumber, pork? spring rolls, and a slice of big fish with skin and bones included that Drew had to pass on. The fish, actually, was very good. And of course, there were new beers.

After lunch the owner showed us his various fish nets. This was where my lunch came from!

The farmer had a "pet" fish called Lucky that weighed 50kg; he was very proud of it. After lunch, we were expecting a big boat to show up to take us to another hopefully cleaner area where we could do some other activities, but instead, we just got back on the kayak and went out for another 3 hours of rowing. (My arms are so sore while I am typing this that I needed to limit my beer lifting to conserve energy for typing.)
We were determined to find a cave we could paddle through. Drew spotted this.
An arch leading to a secret enclosed lagoon!
It was really cool and made me happy.


Then it was back on the boats to explore some more.

We entered an sea that was probably off limits and found this cool overhang.

But then a guy came by, rowing with his feet, and told us to scram. Before we went though, he wanted to show us his catch for the day-a big squid!

We followed him out of the forbidden area and secretly filmed him paddling with his feet. The video below starts out wiggly, but calms down.



A few more islands and inlets

Took us the back way to the meeting place for the boat back to our hotel. The back way was probably not the way tourists were supposed to go. The amount of trash floating on the water was flabbergasting. Gross!


So that was our end to Halong Bay. I would have to say, I was pretty disappointed with the kayak tour. Halong Bay was at the top of my must see list for this trip, and i was really hoping for a more memorable experience. We paid $25 USD each for an all day kayak rental and lunch, we didn't see any cool caves or get to hike to anything amazing, and the trash in the water was disgusting. But Drew points out that we did get to go in that cool lagoon and we saw how the locals make their living on the water. And it beats shoveling snow in Utah!

On to the next adventure, after we figure out what that is!


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