John Harvey Photo

Hanoi And Halong Bay

Go to Slide Show Smaller Images Welcome to Hanoi


Across Hoan Kiem Lake
We were on an afternoon flight from Hong Kong and we arrived at the airport (which isn't exactly close to downtown) just before sunset.  We had a car waiting (we booked a package ahead of time) and we were quickly brought into town.  After checking into our hotel (Hoab Binh - it apparently means peace), we decided to go for a walk and look for dinner.

I've been to India - I've seen countries that aren't quite as developed as Canada or the US.  I was pleasently surprised with Vietnam.  There are sidewalks, taffic isn't badly behaved (although sometimes all those motorcycles are intemidating), and people are quite nice.  In the small part of Hanoi we visited we found most of the city was focused on making money from tourists.

Street VendorsTourists Going By In CyclosStreet Vendors Selling Balloons

Helen The Street VendorDinner At Green Tangerine
After poking around for a bit, we found our restaurant (Green Tangerine) and had a fantastic dinner.  If this was eating in Vietnam, this was going to be a really good vacation.

Halong Bay
Halong bay is a UNESCO world heritage site.  Most "go see Vietnam" brochures include pictures of Halong Bay.  The bay was a three hour drive from Hanoi (with a "bathroom" stop at a "factory" selling pretty much everything) and the tourist center (where all the boats dock) was an outright zoo.  We got on board our boat and were very impressed.

Dinner TablesHelen In Stateroom

We quickly got under way and sailed out into the Islands.  The Islands were somewhat hazy.  It's hard to know why - is it agricultural burning or polution from china, or maybe polution from nearby Haiphong - no idea. 

Train Of Boats Into Halong BayHazy BayRowing In Bay
Lunch was servered on board as we moved through the islands.  We passed people fishing or just rowing through.
Jungle On Rock SurfaceShip Mate On TaxiFishing Boat

As I understand it, there are many perminate residents in the Islands.  When we arrived in the bay, our boat was approached by a number of smaller "service" boats offering to sell us cookies, beer and shells.  These little boats travel around and harass the large boats when the arrive.  They are actually pretty photogenic.  That said, they don't like having their photos taken if you aren't buying.

711 In ABoatKid Out Selling ShellsKids Selling Shells

Hang Thien Cung (Grotto of the Heavenly Palace)
After we arrived in the bay, we came to shore and walked up the cave.  There is a bit of a climb to get up there, but once inside I was amazed by the volume and the quality of the paths through the space. 

Massive Cave VolumeScalloped Ceiling

Sunset View Of Junk
After we got out of the cave and back to the boat it was pretty much sunset.   We didn't move very far - basically across the bay.  There was a small beach but most people stayed on board to relax.

View To Bay

Sun Setting Behind RocksFishing Boat Coming InAnchored At Night
  Boats Anchored In Morning
  The next morning was somewhat like a hangover.  Lots and lots of boats, and you realize you really are tourist cattle.  We had another ride to a cave (this one opening up into a hidden lagoon inside an island) and then our boat starting moving inevitably back to shore.

Zen Spa (back in Hanoi)
Tea Serving
We came back to Hanoi (again in car, again seeing pretty much just road and road side stores), and stopped by the travel office before we went to the train station to go North.  After working out the paperwork, we went through their books and found a nice spa.  Because of the low cost of labour, services like spa's can be a great deal compared to Canada.  At Zen spa, Helen got a 90 minute treatment for about $45 dollars - the same treatment in Canada would be at least $200, and wouldn't have the amazing setting. 

At this point, I'm seeing a type of tourism I've never done before.  Japan has hot springs that are somewhat similar (there is no similar experience in Canada that I know of), but other than that, I've never done "spa" tourism.

  Zen Spa SignageSmall Fish PondBonzai Outside Spa

Next: Sapa, Bac Ha and Markets

711 In ABoat
Tags: boat, Vietnam
View To Bay
Tags: Vietnam, vista
Kids Selling Shells
Tags: boat, Vietnam
Kid Out Selling Shells
Tags: boat, Vietnam
Street Vendors
Tags: street food, Vietnam
Helen In Stateroom
Tags: Vietnam
Massive Cave Volume
Tags: cave, trail, Vietnam
Dinner Tables
Tags: boat, restaurant, Vietnam
Fishing Boat Coming In
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: boat, fishing, silhouette, sunset, Vietnam
Helen The Street Vendor
Person: Helen
Tags: night, street food, Vietnam
Dinner At Green Tangerine
Tags: restaurant, Vietnam
Sunset View Of Junk
Tags: boat, sunset, Vietnam
Hazy Bay
Altitude: 4m (13 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: atmospheric perspective, Vietnam
Zen Spa Signage
Altitude: 10m (32 feet)
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Tags: sign, Vietnam, zen
Boats Anchored In Morning
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: boat, Vietnam
Street Vendors Selling Balloons
Tags: balloons, night, Vietnam
Ship Mate On Taxi
Location: Go To...
Tags: boat, Vietnam
Small Fish Pond
Altitude: 9m (29 feet)
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Tags: Vietnam
Anchored At Night
Altitude: 1m (3 feet)
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Tags: long exposure, stars, Vietnam
Jungle On Rock Surface
Altitude: 8m (26 feet)
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Tags: rock, Vietnam
Bonzai Outside Spa
Altitude: 17m (55 feet)
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Tags: bonsai, garden, Vietnam
Scalloped Ceiling
Tags: cave, long exposure
Tea Serving
Tags: food porn
Train Of Boats Into Halong Bay
Altitude: 24m (78 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Vietnam, vista
Rowing In Bay
Altitude: 11m (36 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: boat, Vietnam
Fishing Boat
Altitude: 3m (9 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: boat, fishing
Across Hoan Kiem Lake
Altitude: 10m (32 feet)
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Tags: lake, monument, Vietnam
Tourists Going By In Cyclos
Tags: night, Vietnam
Sun Setting Behind Rocks
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: atmospheric perspective, orange sky, sunset, Vietnam
Tags: Vietnam(26), boat(10), sunset(3), night(3), long exposure(2), restaurant(2)
People: Helen(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > Vietnam > Hanoi And Halong Bay

Awesome cave!!!
Caelan Lewis
Sunday, June 22nd, 2008 at 21:27:55

Halong bay is always amazing. I was there 4 times and still want to go there again.
Thursday, December 6th, 2012 at 18:23:12

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