Friday, October 28, 2022

A Day Cruise in Ha Long Bay

We take an 8-hour cruise on Ha Long Bay, long enough to go out in the islands and explore some of the geography, caves, and beaches of this magical place.  We would like to take an overnight cruise, but are constrained for time and can only do one day.  We'll come back another time for the longer cruise deeper into the bay or into Bai Tu Long Bay a little further up the coast.

We are picked up at our hotel and taken to the pier, with one quick stop at the market to fill the trunk with fresh fish and vegetables for our lunch on the boat. 

At the pier

Our boat (for the day)

We motor out into the bay, approaching the first group is islets that we'll pass between.

Heading out

We pass the "kissing rocks," where every boat stops for pictures.

Kissing rocks

We continue down the channels between the islands, enjoying the landscape and the views.  There are many tour boats going the same route and also many commercial barges, ferries, and fishing boats.

Continuing through the islets

Soon, in the next few blogs, we'll visit caves in the limestone islands and explore other great features and activities of this area.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Arriving in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and fabulous destination of 1,553 km2 (600 sq miles), including around 2,000 limestone islets.  "Ha Long" means "descending dragon" and the core of the bay is  about 334 km2 (129 sq miles) around 775 islets.  The limestone in the bay has formed over 500 million years, while the karst in the bay has developed over 20 million years in the tropical wet climate.

It is an incredibly beautiful place to visit, about 2.5-3 hours by car from Hanoi and we arrive to beautiful views of the bay and a few of the small islets.

Arriving, looking out on the bay

We stroll down the street and find lots of seafood for sale in the tanks of the restaurants along the way.

Seafood for all

We walk past the restaurants and find Sun World Halong, a fantasy amusement park with rides, trains, shows, dramatic architecture and grounds, and a gondola ride across the water to the other side of town.

Sun World

Walking back to our hotel, we find more fish.  I think we'll eat well here (and fresh)!

More fish

The bay is incredibly beautiful and the city lights up as the sun sets and people come out to the bay as vendors set up tables, chairs, and food stands along the water.

Another view of the bay

Night falls

What a great place.  Tomorrow, we'll take a day-long boat ride out into the islands of Ha Long Bay.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Temple of Literature in Hanoi

Hanoi's Temple of Literature was built in 1070, dedicated to Confucius, and served as Vietnam's first national university.  The courtyards, pavilions, and halls of the temple are filled with statues and stelae of doctors and were used to hold offering ceremonies, study sessions, and the comprehensive civil service exams of the Confucian court.

We enter the first courtyard and pass through it to the next, filled with stelae records of Imperial exams, with the names of the 1,304 successful candidates in the 82 mandarin examinations held between 1442 and 1779.  The king relied on Imperial officials (mandarins) who passed the exam to govern the country.  The exams lasted several months and were open to all young men of property, except for criminals, musicians, singers, and those in mourning.

Entering the temple

Next courtyard and stalaes

We continue on through more courtyards, gardens, and ponds.

Continuing through the courtyards

As we get deeper into the property, we reach the temples, which are filled with beautiful works.

Temples and statues

Signs in English and French explain Confucianism as a "theory based on the ethical behavior of a gentleman:  educating the self, organizing the family, governing the state, and ruling all nations."  

We continue through the beautiful grounds of the complex to the fifth courtyard, which was a school for the children of the royal family and now serves as a museum.

Continuing through the courtyards

The fifth (and final) courtyard

This has been an incredible exploration of ancient Vietnam and some of its history and rituals.