A wild ride
“You are among the first two hundred people to approach Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bays in this way,” announced Nguyen Van Tuan, the director of Tourism Services for Ha Long Bay, “Traveling by speed boat you will visit the most interesting to reach places.”
I had jumped at the chance to join a tour organized by Quang Ninh province’s Tourism Services to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ha Long By’s listing as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The weather did not cooperate and we set out on a gloomy morning. Although summer had officially arrived, we all wore warm clothes, as the organizers had warned us that it could be cold in our open speedboat. Everyone was excited.
Our group of 30 people would use four boats. Stepping aboard I felt nervous. The boat was about as wide as a double be. With ten people out aboard, it sat very low to the water. In thick fog we headed out to sea and entered a strange, fairy world. Mr. Tuan, who knows Ha Long Bay like his own house said, rather loudly: “Oh! My friends! What a surprise! We are exploring this mysterious bay in the fig.”
The sea was gray, Jagged rocks appeared above clouds of fog. The other boats vanished like illusions. Our boat was in the lead. It bounced over the waves like a bicycle with over-inflated tired on a bumpy road, one minute flying through the air, and the next pounding against the water. A girl laughed. I thought about the strength of the boat’s base. A wave soaked my camera.
All of a sudden the boat’s driver, Mr. Sau, brought our craft to a stop. Waves rolled up, sloshing the sides of the boat. We were lost. He pulled out a cell phone to call Mr. Tuan, the boss. Sitting there, cocooned in dense fog, it was strange to hear Mr. Tuan’s voice: “Hello”.
While waiting for the fog to lift Mr. Sau refueled. The boat’s two 85 horsepower three-cylinder Yamaha engines had consumed about 40 liters of gas in an hour. Maintaining a speed of 60km an hour takes a lot of gas.
In 1994, UNESCO recognized Ha Long Bay as a World Natural Heritage Site. In 2000, the bay also received World Heritage Site status for its geographic value. Beyond Ha Long Bay lies Bai Tu Long Gulf, a beautiful region that will soon be recognized as part of Ha Long Bay. Officially, Ha Long Bay now covers 434 square will be expanded to about 1, 200 square kilometers.
We traveled through the southern part of Bai Tu Long. We visited Quan Lan commune, where the villagers catch and sell sao sung, a special type of each worm. From Quan Lan we took a shortcut over to Ngoc Vung, dropping in at Hon Xep to peek at some archaeological dig sites. Our next stop, Ba Ham Lagoon, lies about 20km from Bai Chay. Ba Ham is actually comprised of three lagoons, all set inside a mountain and linked to each other by sea caverns.
“In ten years of driving a speedboat this is a historic trip for me,” announced Mr. Sau. “I’ve never such thick fog, not to mention this difficult, risky itinerary and more than200km to cover!”
Should you have the chance to visit Ha Long Bay, traveling by speedboat is an exciting option. Three outfits run speedboat tours: Tuan Chau Tourism, the Hoang Gia Hotel and the Ha Long Service Joint Stock Company. Prices range from VND 250,000 to VND400, 000 per person, depending in the size of the group and the itinerary.
This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel
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Halong package tour
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