Driving from Hanoi to Ha Long city, to then board a cruise boat for Halong Bay takes about 3 hours. Twenty tour cruise boats then sailed taking 45 minutes to reach the World Heritage Area which, being extensive (about 2,000 islands and limestone peaks) easily absorbed all these boats. In high season this excursion is so popular the number of boats apparently jumps up to 40 boats per day, with a mix of trip options : day trippers / over-nighters / or two nights afloat, which was my choice. Included in my itinerary was a day kayaking and swimming at a beautiful, secluded sandy beach.
This tourist attraction really does measure up to the professional publicity photos and rapturous brochure descriptions – I’m disappointed that my photos just don’t fully capture this very special place.
On the Hanoi-HaLong tollways – many with 6 lanes of traffic travelling at 120 km/hr – thankfully the ubiquitous, low-powered motor bikes are excluded. Like here, it seems most of VN’s major roads are now lined with eucalyptus trees. And its common to see large plantations, even weed-like infestations of ‘our’ distinctive gums across areas of the countryside.
Since back in the mid-60’s various quick growing species derived from Northern Australia have been introduced, originally to revegitate land degraded over many centuries. And of course to rehabilitate areas more recently denuded by American spraying of herbicide to destroy enemy crops and forest cover during the re-unification war. Export of eucalyptus wood chips to Japanese and Korean paper mills is now big business. And eucalyptus oil distilled from gum tree foliage is probably more popular than in Australia – often made by small scale local operations.
Shrubs planted in median strips, and running alongside major highways (especially in the South) are sculpted into attractive, repetitive pattern shapes. These manicured gardens typically run for many kilometres in a stretch, obviously providing employment to maintain them. And I’ve seen work teams manually sweeping up litter from the side of these highways as high speed traffic wizzes past, just a metre or so from the workers. OH&S is not a priority in VN with high risk taking also very evident on building sites. The following pic being a rather minor example of that.
Hi Geoff, I have just caught up with your latest travel entries. I have never been to VN but your accomplished writing and amazing photos bring this foreign and exotic land right into my lounge room.
How are you coping with the heat and humidity?
G’day Edith, glad you’re enjoying the travelogue and photo selection – one takes so many shots with a digital camera, takes ages to cull ‘em, then decide what to incl or not. Maybe you remember that Jen (of the literary bent) was a good and regular trip blogger – it’s a bit of a chore for me always playing catch-up a few days later. Naturally I love re-reading her posts, so it is a worthwhile creating a record to then look back on.
Today’s truism : “ Life is lived going forwards, and understood looking backwards”.
Been in Sapa 1 1/2 days now – it’s very close to border with China. Clouded in and damp – all roads are slushy with a layer of orange mud. Even Hanoi was cold with drizzling rain when I left for here. Not sure what weather will be like when I spend my final day in VN back in Hanoi.
Hopefully anything but wet. Bye. G
Wow, that’s a serious cruise boat. Things have changed since last being there. There was no tollway, just crazy traffic on a two-way road through town after town. It took over 4 hours from Hanoi. Still a remarkable place to experience. I don’t remember gum trees in Vietnam but they are becoming ubiquitous in so many countries now. Expect when I next visit they’ll all be singing “Give me a home among the gum trees, with lots of plum trees, a sheep or two, a kangaroo ….”
Now sing along:
Beautiful pics dad!! When I was floating on Ha Long it was clouded in. Not great for photos but added an amazing eerie and beautiful quality to that magnificent place xxx
Glad you like the pics, Anna – I think the mist & humidity interfered with clarity of photos. You must show me yours from HLB & everywhere in VN. Back in Hanoi tonight – happily not raining, hope that holds tomorrow. LD