Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ha Long Bay, 11/8

Saturday morning dawned overcast and cool, but no rain. The only problem would be that the overcast would drain the colors from the formations so we wouldn't get great pictures.

We boarded our boat about 9:00 am. We had to bring all or gear as the boat would let us off on Cat Ba Island.

You can see in the picture above how tightly packed the boats are at the wharf. Three boats are visible.
We were the first to back out, but others didn't wait for us to clear. The boat in the right part of the picture actually bumped into us twice as it tried to maneuver to take our vacated spot.

Our pilot was patient, and we were soon heading into open water. The boat to the right is a larger Junk that has sleeping accommodations on it.

Katie and Kate ended up in almost the same spot as last evening. At this point people were wondering how inviting swimming was going to be later in the day.

We cruised by the old section of Ha Long Bay City, then past the place where they filmed the slave market scene of Indochine, which we had watched in the Director's Seminar on Friday. Other scenes were also filmed in the Ha Long Bay area. That, plus its excellent portrayal of the French colonial system are why I show it.

The karst formations are spectacular, even in the flat light.

Jared and Andrew were on the lookout for the Ha Long Bay "tickler." Maybe they are leaning against it!

Even though it is the off season, there was a fair amount of boat traffic all day. I can imagine what it is like during the summer season.

Ha Long Bay is noted for its pearl sellers, and they even find you on the boat.

Some went to the cabin to get out of the cool breeze.

While Julia was on deck reading one of our required books, People's War - People's Army, by General Vo Nguyen Giap. During the term the students have, or will, read several books by North Vietnamese or National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) authors. That's the best way to see how the American conflict was viewed by the other side, and also to show that war basically sucks no matter which side you are on. War is the result of a failed political process, and generally there are no winners, even though one side may claim it won more dominoes. Anyway, back to our most pleasant day in Ha Long Bay.

Our first stop was in a cove below a large cave in the karst formations. If you look directly over the top of the Junk with its sails up, you can see the entrance to the cave. By the way, the sails are just for show. All the Junks these days have motors, and the sails are just to make the tourists feel good. If you look at the pictures of our boat, you can see that it has sails, but they didn't bother to put them up.
We disembarked and walked up to the entrance. Just inside Tom and Diana found a friend, while Jill was exploring the geology.

Unlike the Cu Chi tunnels, this cave was very user friendly.

Some of the formations were quite spectacular, and some were quite tacky, like the red lights on a formation approximating a certain part of the male anatomy.

Lo and behold as we exited the cave, there was Walter Cronkite expounding on the role of Ha Long Bay in the struggle for independence. Turns out it wasn't much, except watching for incoming supply ships. The North also used some of the caves as safe havens for headquarters and hospitals, figuring they were safe from the B52s. Just to be sure, they built reinforced concrete structures inside the caves.

The view of the inlet from the top was pretty spectacular. Our boat is the last one in line at the quay, with the lighter roof.

Of course there were things to buy as soon as your exited the depths.

On the way back to our vessel I passed this woman selling fresh seafood, with an emphasis on crabs. This was obviously not something the tourists would buy as a souvenir, but soon after reboarding our lunch was ready, and I think you can guess what we had.

Diana and Long are eagerly awaiting the repaste at our table.
After lunch, we motored to a calm bay to go swimming.

By this time the sun had come out, and it was ideal swimming weather. Plus the water was an inviting temperature.

Almost everyone enjoyed the water, including Long, and Julia.

You can see how much the sky has cleared.

This is a picture of Long that we will have to show to his son Minh when he is in the rebellious years.

The same for Jared's possible future son.

The girls were a bit more subdued, but they still got into the act.

It was a beautiful afternoon just to enjoy the view and company.

Pam's sister was hanging out, while the Rodman clan was posing for any stray photographer.

Josh and Julia blended into the scenery.

The next stop beyond those rocks is Hawaii.
All too soon our cruise ended at the Cat Ba Island wharf.

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