At anchor overnight in Halong bay. The town of Hon Gai in front of us.
Then we were heading to a place I really had been looking forward to. The world famous Halong Bay (or Ha Long bay), in northern Vietnam. A bay dotted with small and big islets which seem to have been growing up from the bottom a long time ago. I think I read somewhere it is approximately 2000 tiny islands or islets here.
A place which of course is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And also made famous many times by various movies as James Bond (Tomorrow never dies), Pan, the classic movie Indochine, and of course the latest which is Kong: Skull Island.
This place must be experienced if you find yourself in this part of the world.
Halong bay. Usually some haze early in the morning.
Thousands of small islands and islets popping growing out of the water.
As this place is absolutely incredible, so I will add much more pictures than normally do this time. This so people really can get a taste of this place.
We normally arrive the Pilot station around 5 AM, in order to make sure we can transit through the channel between all the islands as slowly as possible. You really need a maritime Pilot here, because the nautical charts covering this area is based upon information collected by the French authorities back in the 40s and 50s. In other words, not exactly updated.
So by using the GPS, which many think is a magic box, is nothing less than dangerous, as we will run aground immediately. The charts are not according to the GPS, easy as that. So we are without a doubt dependent upon good local knowledge, which these pilots have.
Interesting shapes and formations.
Look at that gap under the island! It looks like a……….correct, another cruise ship.
As soon as we have anchored, around 9-10 AM, local tour boats start to show up, and tie up alongside our ship’s side. This so we can start as soon as possible to get our dear passengers off so they can get on their way on their planned excursions. This particular operation is a little “nightmarish” because it is all before a deadline, and hardly anyone speaks a word English, and none of us speak Vietnamese. So we are again very dependent upon some of our local agents to get this run smoothly.
Local tour boat.
Normally when cruise ships are visiting they will stay for 2 days (an overnight), so the passengers can get as much as possible of all the cultural and nature experiences. You just can’t get it all within a day or so. So we normally are at anchor since there are not that much space at the local docks (berths). Unless you happen to work on one of the smaller types of cruise ships, then you can go alongside in the container port in the town Hon Gai, in the end of the bay.
Hon Gai town, were we tendered in to.
Sun setting over Halong Bay
No matter how stressful the first morning might be, it always goes well. We know what is expected from us and them, and it was easy to see my colleagues had done this many times before. Their professionalism was impressive.
Of course, as in so many other places in the world, the locals might seem like they are in a state of chaos, but they are actually just using a system which we are not used to. They always manage to do their part well.
Some locals appeared after dark.
Of course, when we are visiting places like this, the ship’s crew members will also use the opportunity to proceed ashore and discover the local sights and sounds as well. So did I, as soon as I was off duty for some hours, I went ashore with some of my colleagues. A ship’s crew ID and US dollars in the pocket, and a camera over the shoulder. Why US dollars and not the local Vietnamese Dong? Because you probably can use US Dollars on the planet Mars as well, if there is life there.
A small shrine on the top.
I just have to repeat myself again, if you happen to be in the region, you must experience Halong Bay. You will never regret it.
After we finished with this magnificent place, we were having a seaday transiting towards the end of this spectacular cruise, which was Hong Kong.