I forgot about blogging this special edition to the northern ventures until now. Xin loi (Sorry)! The trip to Ha Long Bay was the last excursion before beginning ISP period. We left Ha Noi early last Thursday morning for the 4 hour drive to the bay, battling the typical traffic as well as a whole slew of other buses filled with eager visitors. We finally arrived at the harbor around noon. We got on our boat (which we had to ourselves!) and were on our way out to the bay area.
Ha Long Bay was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1994 and is a member of the 7 new Wonders of the World. Neat right? I felt like I was on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. “Ha Long” means descending dragon. The Vietnamese give this site its namesake because according to legend, Gods sent dragons down to help the Vietnamese defend the coastline, these dragons spewed out jewels and jade to build a wall of defense. The “jewels” and “jade” are the 1000s of islets and islands in that rise about the surface of the water.
After lunch we docked at a floating market to get kayaks. Nancy and I (the canoeing duo of Lotus Lake) paired up again! As we were paddling around the bay, I quickly realized my arms were not cut out for kayaking, I think they are still sore! We curiously checked cave-like entrances and discussed our excitement and qualms about beginning our ISPs. Though Ha Long Bay is absolutely gorgeous, it’s hard not to ignore the results of high-traffic tourism at the site. Chip bags, candy wrappers, and drink bottles were floating around the bay waters tainted by tour boats’ pollute residue.
I actually visited this site before, and I have to say, the condition is slightly cleaner than I remember, but that might because during the summer there aren’t as many visitors. A few weeks ago, we had a lecture about sustainable tourism in Vietnam. The country is in a favorable location with a coastline, lakes, rivers, and mountains, 8% of their GDP comes from tourism, but the professor commented that the country needed to revamp the measures of utilizing their natural resources and natural sites as tourist attraction. There needs to be sustainable infrastructure built that protects the natural sites and is beneficial to the local people.
And here is what you have been waiting for…