After our adventures in Ha Long Bay, we got the bus to Hong Gai, which is on the other side of Ha Long Bay to Bai Chay. Bai Chay is very touristy and expensive, but Hong Gai could not be more different – not a tourist in sight, much poorer, but still stunningly beautiful.
There was also a floating village there, but it was much more modest. The floating village in Ha Long Bay was neatly painted and probably enriched by the proceeds of tourism – (photos in my previous blog). The floating village in Hong Gai was less aesthetically pleasing, with tarpaulin roofs, but probably more real! The people were nice and offered us a boat ride, but we decided to stay on dry land this time. The views of the bay were spectacular, just as they were the previous day on our boat tour of Ha Long Bay.
(Sorry the photo is uneven – I took it from underneath my shawl. I didn’t feel comfortable parading around with a camera, partly because it seemed sensible to keep electronic equipment out of view when in a poor community, and partly because we were the only tourists so it seemed like we would be intruding if we went around sticking cameras in people’s faces.)
We wandered through local markets where women were squatting or sitting on tiny stools selling fish and vegetables in small blue buckets.
We wanted to walk to the coast but it was difficult to get to. We ended up walking through a construction site, which was desolate apart from a couple of abandoned diggers. This reminded me of the film Avatar; the yellow symbol of destruction juxtaposed with the beautiful unspoilt islands in the bay.
I’m not sure what they were building there, but I suspect it might be a luxury hotel. People would pay a lot to stay there. On the hillside above the construction site there were a row of very modest homes / shacks. It made me sad to think that the people living in those houses will probably not see any money made by any luxury hotel, if indeed that is what’s being built. I hope they look after the locals.
We watched the sun set over the bay. It was really peaceful and we felt lucky to have been there to witness this sight in such a beautiful location.
When darkness fell we went to catch our bus back to Bai Chay. This was not as simple as it was coming out. We weren’t sure where the bus stop was, and walked back and forth between bus stops before finally finding (what we thought was) our bus. We were packed on like sardines. After around 5 minutes a ticket inspector started to make his way down the bus. “Why is he bothering?” I wondered “It’s way too crowded”. Well, I was extremely glad he did bother, as he and a helpful local deciphered that we were in fact on the wrong bus – this bus was going up the coast towards China!!
The bus slowed down, and we got ready to hop off. We soon realised the bus wasn’t going to stop, and we were expected to jump off… so we jumped off the moving bus, into the road. I really hate to think about that now, as if a motorbike had been coming (which is very likely in Vietnam!) we could have been killed. It makes me shudder how dangerous that was!! Luckily, we were fine. We dusted ourselves down, thanked our lucky stars that the mistake had been spotted before we left town (let alone before we reached China!!), and walked back into the town centre. We ended up getting a taxi. Which ironically we could have done an hour before, if we hadn’t been intent on using our return bus ticket!!
So we made it back to Bai Chay, glad we were still alive!
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