May 8, 2012

 The Halong Bay Harbor
 My first glimpse of the limestone formations that envelop Halong Bay
 Halong Bay's Fighting Rooster Rocks (same rocks seen on the VND bill)
 Limestone formations up close
 Enterprising food vendors
 Kayaking near a small fishing village in Halong Bay
 You kayak through this small cave
 And emerge to see this breathtaking view
 Instead of kayaking you can also choose to pay one of these nice Vietnamese ladies to
row you on one of their small boats. These women are super strong.
Even children start rowing early
 The fishing village where the small boats and kayaks dock
A school located in the fishing village. You can see children running around inside.

All images taken in Halong Bay, Northern Vietnam
All images (c)

May 6, 2012

Our first stop on the Halong Bay Cruise was the Surprise Cave - better known locally as 
Dong Thien Cung. The cave was supposedly discovered by accident by a monkey. 
The locals chose to highlight the intricacies of the cave by using colored lights. It added to the
ambiance of the place, however I wasn't sure what to take away from the experience because I like my caves in natural light - dark as they may be. :)  The formations were still beautiful though.
These are some pictures of the reconstruction of the pier at the cave area. The pier was supposedly
ravaged by the country's first ever major storm that had swept through a few days before our trip.

All images taken at Dong Thien Cung (Surprise Cave), Halong Bay, Northern Vietnam
All images (c)

May 5, 2012

Junk boats are a popular (and possibly the only) way to cruise around Halong Bay.
 I forget the exact number, but there are at least 30 junk boats that converge around the bay area
on any given tour day. Most, if not all, of these junk boats stay overnight. 
If you notice, most of the boats have been painted white. This was mandated by the
government after Halong Bay had secured a place on the 2011 Wonders of the World list.
 At the time, our junk boat, the Golden Lotus, was still in the process of being painted
so we still got to enjoy it in it's original character and form.
Sleeping in a junk boat may be a scary idea for some, but even for a
swimming-phobe like me, the experience was quite enjoyable!
The accommodations were really quite nice and the service was superb! 
For only USD140 you get a twin-share room for 2 days and one night - inclusive of meals, 
tours, kayaking, squid fishing (if you're lucky enough to catch any), and karaoke.  It was awesome!

All images taken in Halong Bay, Northern Vietnam
All images (c)

May 4, 2012

Contrary to popular (and in my case, uninformed) belief, it does get cold in Vietnam. 
Particularly in the Northern part of the country where Halong Bay is located.

My friends and I took a trip there in the beginning of April, which was just about the end 
of winter. Having not brought the proper attire for the trip, needless to say, we froze. 
But even while frozen it was hard not to appreciate the beauty that put Halong Bay 
on the map as one of nature's natural wonders of the world. It was breathtaking. 

All images taken aboard the Golden Lotus Junk Boat in Halong Bay. 
All images (c)

May 3, 2012

A quick look at Vietnamese art from Chan Thien My

All this art was made for the benefit of North Vietnam's disabled population.

All images taken at Chan Thien My, North Vietnam
All images (c)

May 2, 2012

Hanoi offers a different flavor in stark contrast to the modernity of Ho Chi Minh City.
This fact is quite perplexing since Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. 

 Motorcycles parked in one of the streets in Old Quarter.
 Hanoi Hoan Kiem Lake
 The entrance to the Temple of Literature
 Shrine inside the Temple of Literature
 Hoan Kiem Lake at night
 Pagoda in Hoan Kiem Lake
 Excellent place for some meditation and r&r
 Ly Tai Tho Monument turned skate park
Hanoi Opera House

All images taken in Hanoi City, Vietnam
All images (c)
All images taken with an iPhone 4S camera.