Posted by: Richard Marshall | July 15, 2010

Family Holiday part 2: Ha Long Bay and Cambodia

Cat Ba Island

After what seems a long absence I’ve decided that I need to return to blogging. I’ve certainly learned the importance of updating more quickly. Although the last week of my parents’ April visit was only a few months ago, recent events have made it seem as if I’m looking back across a great rift of time into a dimly remembered past.  But the historian in me baulks at the thought of a gap in the records, even in as personal and insignificant an archive of experience as this one. Also, it we had good time together and so it is worthy of being remembered and valued.

After we returned from Cat Tien we took a flight to Hai Phong in the north. I was quite pleasantly surprised by Hai Phong. After the appalling heat down south the town was cool, leafy and had a pleasant colonial centre. We didn’t linger long, however. We took a fairly uncomfortable bus down the harbour, and then a boat to Cat Ba island. We had heard the town of Cat Ba disparaged by various people, but for all the kitsch hotels and karaoke bars it was certainly no worse than anywhere else in Vietnam, and actually had quite a pleasant sea-front. A far greater threat to the beauty of the island seemed to be an enormous marina they were building, rather than the usual Vietnamese muddle. Fortunately, much of the interior of the park is protected, and we spent our day there doing an actually quite arduous walk through the forest. We also enjoyed some very pleasant seafood dinners by the harbour.

Mom and Dad fresh before the walk.

Rather less so later on…

From Cat Ba we took a boat to Ha Long City, where we were to catch a junk to go around the bay. There was a certain amount of confusion and rigmarole as to which boat exactly we were supposed to be on, and we ended up on a different boat each night, but in the end it was all very pleasant. The food was great, we had some chatty Australian company, and the bay is indeed very beautiful. It would probably be better without an armada of kitsch tourist boats and a dense, dirty population of fish farmers, but even this wasn’t sufficient to mar the magnificence of the limestone karsts rising out of the sea.

Ha Long Bay

The bay

After Ha Long, we returned to Hai Phong for a night and then flew back to HCMC. We left immediately to go to Siem Reap. I had been to the temples quite recently, but enjoyed travelling in a tuk tuk rather than by bike, and it was nice to be already familiar with the place. The second day we decided to go birding on lake Tonle Sap. Unfortunately it was the dry season so the lake was only a fraction of the size it reaches during the rains. It was also unbelievably hot. All the same, it was interesting to see the life on the lake, and we did also manage to see quite a few new birds, including a large mob of pelicans.

Me in a boat

For mom and dad’s final night in HCMC we had a hot-pot dinner, which was really delicious, and I returned to work after seeing them off at the airport.

P.S. I have managed to upload a lot of photos onto my picasa site – please click onto the gallery if you would like to see them. Some of them go back a few years and may contain images of friends/ family in different stages of inebriation. If anyone seriously objects let me know and I’ll remove them!

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