Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 2nd – Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay has some of the most bizarre and spectacular scenery in the world – a magical seascape of thousands of little limestone islands jutting vertically out of the water, and weathered into various shapes. It's the kind of fantastical landscape that you think only exists on CGI film sets for films like Lord of the Rings or Avatar.

We did a boat trip through this magical landscape, and the misty weather only added to the mystical atmosphere. As you cruised the quiet green waters between these odd islands towering over us like ancient skyscrapers overgrown with green vegetation, the peace was only broken by the phut-phut of the local people in their boats trying to sell us fruit we didn't need or want. Unfortunately, they tend to use their little children to tug at the heartstrings of us tourists, who are already feeling slightly guilty at being lucky enough to enjoy such magnificent sights. These children are sent to board our boat, like little fruit-bearing pirates, and have been taught to whine, "mon-ey, one doll-ar", over and over again, until someone gives them a dollar or two to go away. It's worrying to think that these children may grow up thinking that this is the only way to make a living – hopefully they will discover more lucrative and dignified ways to earn money.

The trip then took us to one of the floating homes of a fisherman, to snoop around his little house on a small little platform on the waters between the islands, and look at the bizarre fish he's caught. Just when everyone was thinking he was living a basic and uncomplicated life, we saw into a back room, and noticed the large flat screen TV and mobile phone – it proves that you can't escape modern life. Just when we were thinking that the world's becoming increasingly similar, we caught sight of a couple of dogs in a cage. Hoping that our suspicions weren't correct, we asked the guide whether the dogs were pets – no, came the answer, they will be dinner in the next couple of months!