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Vietnam By Train: Cruising Halong Bay

February 10, 2009 at 11:31 AM | by | ()

All week long our roving correspondent Claire Duffett will be sending back her travel reports from Vietnam. Any questions or suggestions? Let us know and we'll have Claire answer them for you.

From Hanoi, we headed east to Halong Bay. More than 3,000 limestone islands jut out of the Gulf of Tonkin, so it's often compared to Krabi in Southern Thailand, though I visited there in November and Halong’s landscape is far more impressive. It does, however, lack the sandy, white beaches.

Like many UNESCO sites, the beauty of Halong Bay is constantly at odds with the ugliness of heavy tourism. Its adjacent city is the worst of rapid, unchecked development, with hideous high-rises abutting massage parlors and slums. The bay itself is littered with “junk boats,” heavy wooden boats that ferry tourists through the maze of islands.

While the antique boats themselves look quite beautiful lumbering through the water, there is simply too many of them. Often, the iridescent glean of oil is visible on the water, and I floated past empty bottles and debris.

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