An early morning for an early excursion in a “junk” (boat) around Halong Bay. The day turned out to be mildly hot (about 83F when we got back about noon) and humid. The sun was shining but there was a layer of haze in the air so for some of my photos I’m going to have to spend some time editing the picture to remove as much haze as I can (just sliding the dehaze slider doesn’t always work).
We had literally hundreds of people going on the same excursion to sail around some of the Halong Bay islands. And, there were quite a number of junks lined up to take us. This is a tender port but we did not have to use the tender to get to shore and then sail out in the junks. The local tourist agency has a floating dock which came out to the ship and tied up on the port side. The junks then lined up to that floating dock and we boarded from there and returned to there. It was the neatest and fastest operation I’ve seen this year. People going to shore had to use the ship’s tenders off the starboard side.
The sail around the islands was a treat except for the haze in the air. It tended to disappear from view when the sun was from behind and we were close but back-lit photos were generally horrible to take. I’ll have to see what I can do with them later. With so many boats we had a couple of close calls and two actual low speed crashes; it was rather like being in a bumper car ride. 🙂
The various islands are quite famous and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. At least one of them appears on Viet Nam currency (see photos) and another appeared in the last King Kong movie release (actually, while I did not recognize it at the time, a few days before that movie was shown on the ship).
The islands are largely limestone and, as such, a number have cave systems in them. Some of these caves were used for troops during the Viet Nam War even though land fighting never got this far north. We visited the Thien Cung Grotto. Once you got off the junk you were committed as the junk left the drop-off point and went to a pickup point. I say committed because the way to the entrance was to climb some 100 or so steps. One nice thing about taking photos is that you have a built in excuse to stop and rest. 🙂 But, that’s not all. Once inside you go through three large chambers. Lights and a safe pathway have been installed. There is a dragon that guards the cave; it’s actually a coiled column that has a head with a rather evil mouth. Somebody has installed a red light in what would be seen as the dragon’s eye. Loved it (photo).
The surprise of this cave is at the end where you find yet another 100 or so steps leading up to the exit! We were warned in the writeup the cave part would be strenuous but the text implied only 100 up and then 100 down, not 200 up and, of course, 200 back down to the shore where the junk was waiting (along with the others – photo).
Made it but suspect I’ll be walking on legs that are not quite so steady tomorrow.
Then, back to the ship. I thought about going back out on a tender to walk around the port but quickly decided that was a bad idea and took the time to actually use my balcony to sit in the sun for 15 minutes or so and then clean up and rest as tomorrow is a long day in Da Nang.