After Hanoi, we went to the Ha Long Bay, which means “Diminishing Dragons Bay”. It is 170 kms Between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay,and it takes 4 hours with the bus. But there are beautiful landscapes through the road so it is not boring at all. We even stopped on the roadside to chat with the rice field workers, next to the rice fields.
Vietnamese are really extrovert as a society. They are very good at communicating. They start talking to any stranger they see. What they ask first is usually where you are from. Than they keep on with the chat with daily questions. It is a part of their culture.
After this nice chat on the run, our second stop was a very big store that sold souvenirs. The most interesting things were the silk paintings done by the handicapped. These threadwork paintings looks just like oil paintings. All the depth and perspective was reflected. These handmade paintings are really cheap despite the craftsmanship on them. We bought some paintings there. And the ceramic objects were really attractive too.
Many people became permanently disabled, many of them lost a limb, after the wars in Vietnam. The government opened ateliers like this for the handicapped to work, provided them jobs. In these government supported establishments, the products sold and made by the handicapped are both cheaper from the other shops, and the income is also used to support these people.
After that, we arrived at the Ha Long Bay. It is a very fascinating area with countless escarpments in the sea.
Ha Long Bay has a mythological story. Vietnamese are people that have seen many battles. This is why they said to the mother of dragons, “come, protect us”. And the mother dragon went into the sea from Ha Long Bay shore to protect the Hanoians. The escarpments left on the water are characterized as the back of the dragon.
Dragon is a protecting power in the eyes of Vietnamese, and a scary monster in the eyes of Europans.
We got on schooners called “Jung” from Ha Long bay shore. There are many schooners that serve to tourists here.
We started depart from the shore slowly after we got on the schooners. We were proceeding forward on the sea in between thorny sharp rocks.
Ha Long Bay is a must see in Vietnam. Houses, boats, schooners and oddly shaped rocks floating on the bay. The view is fascinating. It is a wonder of nature. Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1.500 km2 . There are about 3000 islets around the area.
Schooners has bedrooms on their lower floor. The upper floors are restaurants. We had our lunch in those schooners. It was incredible. Jumbo shrimps, giant crabs… It was a feast.
The area called floating houses around here,are just like neighbourhoods. They have schools, markets. They can even move to another neighbourhood with their houses. It was really interesting.
We strolled around the Ha Long Bay delta with our schooner. First, we stopped by the Surprise Cave. This cave is in one of the 3000 islets of Ha Long Bay. The inside of it is pretty cool, and nicely lighted.
The view on the way up to the cave is fascinating.
The islets on this area had an erosion with the wind. The rocks are not volcanic. The soft parts of them were washed out. Even with no soil on them, there are trees growing on rocks. The miraculous power of the earth. I believe the roots of those trees reach down to the soil at very deep.
The lower parts of the islets, the parts that are in touch with the sea, are waterworn through the inside, all around. The tide has a real effect on this.
After this, we stopped by a smaller cave. But the inside of this one is pretty broad. They have used it to hide weapons in the war times.
The night has fell before I realized how the time passed, wandering around the Ha Long Bay islets. We had our dinner on the schooner which also consisted of seafood. Later we went down to our small cabins to sleep. The next morning, we came aboard the shore, got into our bus and headed to Hanoi airport to fly to Saigon.
We stopped by the ceramic and silk ateliers again on the way back to Hanoi. This time, the paintings done with egg shells took our attention. We watched them get done for a while. First the picture is drawn, and then the egg shells are pasted on the drawing with a glue, and they are cracked with a hammer strike. Some parts are cracked more and some parts are cracked less to add depth and tone to the painting. And at the end, lacquer finish is applied. An impressive art form.
As soon as we left the atelier, we went to the Hanoi airport and flew to Saigon.