Posted by: rob | July 16, 2007

Junks and Jellyfish

We spent the weekend on a chinese junk in Ha Long bay, some 200km from Hanoi. Like the area around Yangshuo in China, it is populated with thousands of limestone karst mountains. Here, however, the area is flooded into a bay. Each day dozens of tourist ships ply their course around the many islands. We chose one of the smaller boats (the Lagoon Explorer) as some of the larger ones have reuptations for being too dangerous, noisy, or filthy. This one was none of those and to be honest the other boats looked perfectly acceptable too. There were only seven other passengers on our boat which was a perfect size for being able to chat but also have time to yourself.
Most of the first day was spent swimming in the water (about 35m deep). The water is a simmering 26C and salty enough that you don’t need to do much other than float. Perfect. We skirted by some floating villages. The residents of these villages live there year round and have floating schools and shops. Locals in various dinghies or coracles come to the side of ships to sell goods. These small boats are loaded to the brim with touristic vices – chocolate, beer, toilet paper.
We climbed one of the karsts at sunset to enjoy the view over the bay. After dinner monsoonal rains soon moved in, which was a memorable experience.
The boat crew stay on board the junk, which is 23m long, all year. They get 7 days off every 3 months.
Next morning and it was back to swimming in the big blue. The deck itself is 3-4 metres above the water so jumping in was half the fun. While the captain had explained that the water was too warm for sharks, dolphins, or even fish, he forgot to mention it was rather comfortable for jellyfish. My right leg suffered a nasty encounter with one of them. The crew sprang to action squeezing limes all over my leg and fairly soon the pain was mostly gone, which is more than I can say for the sunburn I also collected.

I highly recommend doing a Halong Bay trip if you visit Vietnam.

– rob



  1. Looks great. I love the second photo especially!

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