Up really early to board Vietnamese Airlines flight to Hanoi. It’s only an hour flight, but when we get there we boarded our bus to go directly to Halong (instead of into Hanoi) – about a 4 hour drive away.
The drive was a panoramic view of farmers out placing rice plants for the prime growing season. Water buffaloes were plowing and grazing. The temperature is in the 70s and will remain warm for the next couple of days.
There are two rice crops a year here in the north as opposed to four around Saigon. The farmers alternate things like peanuts to fill in between the two seasons. The plots belong to single families handed down from generation to generation. Just recently the farmers have been able to sell their product freely. We also see some beautiful fields growing tomatoes, cilantro, melons, etc.
On a “happy” break about half way to Halong we stop at a cultured pearl center. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch the implanting of seed that will become pearls in two to four years. Also fascinating is the quantity and quality of oysters in these waters.
We get to our hotel in late afternoon (no, that’s not our hotel above) and take a walk to see what’s going to be the future of Halong. It’s on a beautiful stretch of beach and water. And, the government is taking advantage of it by totally reclaiming the beaches with sand (mostly rock now) and building the most expansive amusement park/family center in Asia at least (that’s what you see above – the beginnings of a super coaster). The park runs for miles and even has an enormous tram being constructed (see the tower at left) that will connect the park with the island across the bay.
On our walk back to the hotel we pass little seafood restaurants and fish vendors with a boggling number of fish and shellfish we’ve never seen. We’re drooling so…
…a gang of us decide to take advantage of the hotel’s Happy Hour with chardonnay, beer and a dozen each of the freshest, most beautiful oysters anywhere.
We move from there to our buffet dinner and discover they have oysters there too! But, not as nice and succulent as ours.
To bed, ultra full as usual thinking about our trip to the spectacular limestone outcrops and caves of Halong Bay. Get some sleep.