Ultrawide daybreak shot of the bay
Daybreak on the Bay. Make sure you scroll all the way to the right. The picture was taken as an iPhone panorama,
in which the straightness of the horizon unfortunately depends on the photographer’s steadiness of hand.

Tuesday, November 8: Ha Long Bay
and its attractions

folks doing tai chi on a nearby vessel
Folks on a nearby boat doing morning tai chi. Opportunity for the same
was offered to us, but neither Mark nor I bit.

I got up well before sunrise, and went to the public area, where I found that Mark and Shari had been up for quite some time, talking. We watched the sky brighten and the sun rise, through varying amounts of cloud. The bay was filled with boats, many of them bigger than ours, a few smaller.

And then it was time for breakfast. My journal says, «Breakfast was very good: others stood in line for omelets, but I opted for the direct buffet. It was perhaps too western for me — I would have liked more fish, but I was well satisfied.

inside the cave

Julie (big image, small).

also inside the cave

Audra and Mark (big image, small).

also inside the cave

Tom, Steve, Leah (big image, small ).

also inside the cave

Big image, small.

also inside the cave

Leah, Gwen, Alan (big image, small ).

also inside the cave

Big image, small.

also inside the cave

Big image, small.

also inside the cave

Climbing to a narrowish passage (big image, small).

«Almost immediately after breakfast, we set out for the Surprise Cave in one of the karst islands. Very fine, my first limestone cave, I believe. I found the varicolored lighting rather distracting, and not conducive to good photography…» But I did take a lot of pictures, though none seemed particularly exciting, either when I clicked the shutter or when I reviewed them at home. The image to the left and above was taken from the entrance to the Cave, so you see that we had to climb a bit to get to the tourist site.

flowers in the cave

Plant life scraping out a living in the poor light of the cave (big image, small).

There were only a few places where the roof was low or the passage was narrow — I think nobody could have felt claus­tro­phob­ic.

Lots of pictures here, to the right, but not much to say about them beyond “How in­ter­est­ing” — my journal certainly has nothing more to say than what I’ve al­ready quoted.

Next was a return to our boat, and then another ad­ven­ture. Here’s what my jour­nal has to say:

«From there, back to our home ves­sel, to change into swim­suit, for a trip to the near­by beach of Ti Top Is­land. Almost all the tour­ists were Chi­nese, and Mark at­tract­ed a cer­tain a­mount of at­ten­tion with his beard, as I also did with my tat­too­ing.» I don’t re­call whether I begged Mark to take off his shirt, so the Chi­nese tour­ists could be as­ton­ish­ed by his hair­i­ness, but he un­for­tu­nate­ly has nev­er shown a trace of ex­hi­bi­tionism.

I got into the water to swim for a few dozen strokes, but on later reflection, it has occurred to me that that could have been a bit unwise, what with the tourist boats coming in and out right there, and perhaps discharging who knows what liquids. The water was certainly not filled with people swimming — perhaps they knew something I didn’t.

Ti Top beach

The beach, with tourist boats (big image, small).

clowning tourists

Clowning, but Albert is unimpressed (big image, small).

Beach with people and volleyball net

Ti Top beach, unused volleyball net (big image, small).

For some reason, I took rather few pictures there at the beach. Mark, on the other hand, has some great ones, and I can only re­com­mend his page for this day to you. Over there on the left, you can see a bunch of the tourist boats on the other side of the dock, and the crowds of tourists milling towards shore. In the right-hand image there, I don’t know what caused Mark, Shari, and Alan to clown for me, but they did. I think that’s Lulu behind them, being amused.

Notice that there are no shadows in most of my pictures? Here’s a word from my journal: «Maybe it would be appropriate to say something about the weather we’ve seen here in Ha Long Bay. We arrived yesterday to find a gray sky, and it seemed cloudy without intermission. But at night, we saw the moon peeking through the clouds, and this morning very early the sky was almost completely clear. And MTK has an excellent iPhone panorama shot of the sky at dawn. Within less than an hour, though, the sky had closed over again, and though it’s been one of those days today where you can get a sunburn surprisingly fast, we have hardly ever seen our own shadow. The tourist bureau must have to be extremely patient to get a blue-sky shot of the karst islands of Ha Long Bay.»

A long tunnel through the rock

Big image, small.

Rower stands, passengers sit

The others’ boat (big image, small).

From Ti Top Island, we went back to our boat for lunch. My journal continues: «Shortly after lunch, we went to a different floating platform, where we could choose to go kayaking (not for MTK nor me) or else ride on another sampan (what I called a multiperson single-rower rowboat yesterday).» There were seven of us on one boat, six on the other. My journal goes on: «The objective was to pass through a low but wide passage in the karst to an enclosed bay with no other outlet. It was really quite thrilling: the oarsman stands on a platform, and you wouldn’t have thought he could get through without squatting.»

Leaving the tunnel, and entering the enclosed bay (35-second clip)

Journal continues: «On the return, there was an amusing rivalry between our young fellow and the other rower, a young woman who also looked to be a teenager. She was the winner — again my videos should have caught the back-and-forth between them.»

The rowing contest — 58-second clip, but lots of fun.

Tom rolls

Tom tries his hand at rolling a spring roll

Back by launch to our home base, where we were to have a cooking demonstration before dinner. The demonstration involved instructin on how to wrap a spring roll, and I guess I was just too tired, couldn’t get into the spirit of the thing.

But dinner was another matter. My journal says, «Dinner was perhaps the best meal we’ve had. Very good conversation.» In particular, we got to know Tom and Carol much better, and all of us were well entertained by Sheri.

And then back to our cabin, where I slept comparatively fitfully. But there was another day’s adventure ahead of us.