24 October 2009 – day 8 – Saturday – Ha Long Bay
Today we got up early, checked out of the hotel and the bus drove us to Ha Long Bay. We stopped several times along the way, which made the four-hour trip more tolerable.
At the first stop, we saw people harvesting rice. They were hand-cutting the rice plants with a sickle, then hauling them by hand on carts to a machine that separated the rice seeds from the stocks.
It was interesting to watch.
Later, the seeds are spread out on the ground to dry in the sun. We were told that after it dries, it's gathered up and sold to big companies that remove the seeds from the husks then polish them, then sell them for cooking.
During the bus trip, I took lots of photos out the window. Street vendors sat on the side of the highway selling bread to the truckers.
Lee said that's not all the was sold at the side of the road. The Vietnamese government studied the spread of HIV in the country and discovered that it followed trucker's routes. So now they encourage truckers to always bring two goods made of rubber: first, spare tires. Second, condoms.
As before, there were hundreds of photo opportunities. Unfortunately, the bus was going so fast and it was so bumpy that I missed all but a few of them. It was frustrating, especially when I tried to photograph a water buffalo. Every time I tried, the bus would jump up or some other bus would get in the way of my shot. Still, I got one or two interesting shots.
Next, we stopped at a small cemetery on the side of the road. That was interesting.
There were some fresh graves there and we could see how the people were buried on top the ground, not under the ground. Now that's recycling, and I wish we would do that in the United States. I've always said that when I die, don't waste money on an expensive coffin: feed my body to the vultures like they do in Tibet or feed me to the sharks: that's nature's way.
We stopped at a factory that was dedicated to helping the children of veterans who were born with birth defects due to the United States using Agent Orange in the Vietnam war. These children are taught skills, such as sculpting and cross-stitch. The factory sold these things and they were very beautiful. Kathy and I bought one. The problem was that we were only given a half-hour to shop, and the place really needed more time than that; we felt rushed.
Finally, we reached our goal: Ha Long bay. We boarded a Junk boat and set sail.
Since I had been listening to more Alestorm songs on my mp3 player, it was fun to board the ship and remember the words to the songs: “Set sail, and conquer, on our way to distant lands, Set sail, and conquer, destiny is in our hands!”
Once on the Junk, we cruised the bay, which looks very much like Guilin, China. In other words, absolutely beautiful. I took lots and lots of photos.
The food on the boat was very good. OAT does a very good job of that.
At one point, we disembarked and went ashore to see a cave. Lee said that the mountains were hollow and were huge caves inside, so we went in to see. Unfortunately, we weren't the only ones with that idea. There were tons of people. I tried to take photos inside the cave, but I don't know if any of them will turn out.
At one point we came across an area that some Japanese company was using to create pearls.
Eventually the boat stopped and we anchored for the night and slept on the junk. The seas were very calm and relaxing.
Overloaded vehicles of the day: