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the island that's on the 200,000 bill
the island that’s on the 200,000 bill

Cost of Tourism Halong Bay is consistently in the Top 10 nature places to see in your lifetime. I first saw Halong Bay (if you will) on Amazing Race. Couples raced to take boats out to some marked island, dive in the water and complete some task and head back. I don’t remember the details of show like I remembered the Aqua Blue water, the Limestone mountains islands sky-rocking out of the water in a bay of thousands. It was gorgeous and something I knew I wanted to see.

the road is not as innocent as it looks
the road is not as innocent as it looks

The nearest major city to Halong is Hanoi. It’s a long, slow four and half hour bus ride to travel less than 70 miles. The road is paved (with optional lines painted down the middle) but the speed limit is slow and even slower while going villages. This area is well patrolled by police with radar. You’d see one cop on the side of the road, sitting in a chair with the radar and short distance down the road several cops will be standing in the middle of the road pulling people over by the wave of their baton. I even saw one cop sitting in a tree radio in hand. Halong Bay means Dragon in Vietnamese. The story of bay was created by a dragon and this is where she laid her eggs. I think they could be right.

Us in Halong Bay Vietnam
Us in Halong Bay Vietnam

The Vietnamese people are superstitious, and Buddhist. The consult fortune tellers to determined their fate and what courses of action to take. I’ve been in a few Buddhist temples and offered “my wish” and made the bow for the past, another bow for the present, and another for the past. And then as I walk away from the temple, you’d hear stories of how the King of the Nguyen Empire would consult fortune teller and how that practice is continued on today. Much of the Vietnamese culture is tied into Chinese culture, legends and myths. I only wish I knew more. After the long bus ride into Halong Bay, we checked into our hotel for the night for exploration tomorrow. This world heritage site has been taken over by touristsm. New houses, newer looking shops. Roads with sidewalks for walking and not parking the motor-scooter or car. By 8 am, we are at the pier for our five hour tour of the bay. This day there was 600 tourist boats going out. Maybe I exaggerate a wee bit, but not much. The morning is overcast and misty. Hard to see many limestone Islands jetting from the ocean through the ocean of tourist boats. The boat we choose is the slow boat. None slower. We get closer the 1969 islands (1969 just also happens to be the year Ho Chin Mien died) and they are hazy, the water murky with oil and in some spots trash. It doesn’t look like what it did in my mind’s eye from Amazing Race. It is still beautiful nonetheless, and I’m told it looks like Thailand. The government is trying to control this natural wonder of the world by not allowing people (and especially tourists) jump off the boats and swim in the water. Naturally, that is something I wanted to do. Seems I am a few years too late for that dip in the ocean at Halong Bay.

Picture doesn't capture the 600 boats leaving the dock
Picture doesn’t capture the 600 boats leaving the dock
Look at all the tourist..oh wait...I see Dan
Look at all the tourist..oh wait…I see Dan
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