As one of the Worlds most famous attractions and a Unesco World Heritage site a two-day sailing trip on a traditional Oriental boat to take us throughout the 3000 islands of Halong Bay was booked.
Arriving at Halong City and driving towards the bay the majestic rock formations stood proud out of the waters. In the distance we could see these small islands and the famous Cat Ba Island littering the sea as the waters found its way between them. Yet the tacky concrete high-rises and the unnatural beaches on the mainland bay tainted the view.
We set sail on the peaceful waters so still it was as if we were on ice. Yet disappointingly sewage and trash drifted on the water. This became more and more recognizable as we sailed through the awe inspiring scenery. Yet not only did the sewage scatter the waters but the many boats that competed for location as we sailed did too.
On this first day we made a stop at some caves at one of the islands. For the purist adventurer the caves made for a huge disappointment. Not original in structure and tampered with far too much the caves where not original and resembled a pantomime set rather than a unique cave experience. The caves have plain and simply been ruined and are there to impress the neighboring Chinese tourists who seemed to strangely be in awe at this cave that had been raped with pink & green lights and penguin bins: Unesco World Heritage Site- how?
The lush green rock formation islands and the few floating villages with the locals enjoying a cheap beer and Karaoke showed a simple way of life based on fishing. Yet one can’t help notice the fish farms located on these floating villages due to Halong Bay’s waters being over fished and fish stocks diminishing.
The immense views as the sun set in-between the islands made for the perfect peaceful evening as the silhouettes of the islands sat amidst the stars.
The next morning we spent an hour at a floating village kayaking our way between the rock formations ourselves. The way the islands erect is indescribable as the heights of the straight limestone edges tower high into the blue sky back drop.
To summarize the beauty here is immense and is a site that needs to be cherished. However one can’t help but think that Halong Bay is being ruined and abused by the Vietnamese tourist industry with no infrastructure on long term management with regards to preserving it for future generations. This is proven with the sewage that is damaging the sea here and the far too many boats that churn its waters. The Vietnamese officials and Unesco need to look at the way the Whitsunday Islands on the Great Barrier Reef is protected and run if Halong Bay wants to still be the awesome sight that it is today for the future.