Skip to main content

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - The Village

With around three thousand limestone monolithic isles, Ha Long Bay has a charm and scenic splendour of its own.   Nestled below the southern Chinese coasts and Hainan Island, it is a maritime  ecosystem that has caves, grottoes and hidden lakes in islands; displays very few beaches; offers various fascinating shapes in the landscape akin to elephants, cockerels and more; harbours wildlife like monkeys, lizards, bantam birds and antelopes on limited landed areas; and holds a special place in Vietnamese legend relating to benevolent  dragons. It is also a declared UNESCO world heritage site.   Photo above shows our personalised boat paddler taking Matt and me around the bay.

A community of fisher villagers call this place home, making their livelihood on aquaculture and the natural resource pools of mollusks and fishes that live in the bay.  Residents live a transient yet permanent life style, with houses literally floating on the water, or on boats that are moored above calm and placid waters on the evening we visited.  I  did wonder what does it feel and look like on a stormy night.  On a cloudy and hazy twilight in November, going round a particular village, we were paddled by strong young women on boats that sat a maximum of four persons - we observed it was a like a self-contained suburb, with the goings-on of human life, family activities, goods transported and food cooking from kitchens.  Self- managed generators are used for night lighting.  The thought that crossed my mind was also, did they have strong Internet wireless, effective sanitation systems, herbal gardens and television broadcasts?  The very things that  I have taken for granted.

The boats look Chinese in design  but carry the Vietnam flag (picture above) in a region of the South China Sea that has witnessed conflict between the national neighbours.   Are there unknown huge reserves of other natural resources in these waters?   I noticed an absence of bird life on my visit. In times of war, these isles must have been a natural beacon for those trying to escape military encounters.

Research has shown that these places have been occupied as far back as eighteen thousand years ago, although the contemporary villages we saw dates back from the beginning of the 19th century.  How do such villagers handle the challenges of the 21st century - acting to mitigate pollution, treating industrial and domestic waste, managing the arrival of more tourists and sustaining a livelihood?  There are around 1700 individuals living here, mostly in tight knit families.  Below, Mr Kien, the leader of our tour, smiles to the camera as he sits with residents on a floating pontoon.

Sunset on  Ha Long Bay (above) brought out the best of artistic and natural landscapes, one that evoked the heritage styles of Chinese and Vietnamese paintings and poetry.  Below, tourists spewing out from various cruise ships make a bee line on small flat wooden boats to authentic villages which exist not for tours, but for themselves, for now. However, economics have encouraged the emergence of vendor boats with rowers, usually women, who offer refreshments and local souvenirs to passengers on cruise ships that park over night or sail by for day excursions.

Mangrove swamps and sea grass clumps dominate the interface between land and water in Ha Long.
Logically there may be no form of land ownership for the bay's four main villages.  Residents, including youngsters and children, are expert at casting nets, navigating boats and processing sea produce.  Visiting Ha Long Bay, I am reminded to compare with the Andaman Sea near Phuket in Thailand - there, limestone drip creation processes and geological upheavals over thousands  of years  have also created a similar scenery over the waters, articulated the geographical concepts of stalagmites and stalactites and attracted both foreign and domestic tourists over so many years. 

The romance of the place for me began with a specific James Bond movie, The Man with The Golden Gun.  I recall a film episode where Bond himself flew in a plane over what was supposed to be Ha Long Bay, but in reality it was substituted with footage of the Andaman Sea near Phuket.  Norwegians can perhaps share familiarities with Lofeten but in a different climate.


Popular posts from this blog

Chung Ling Alumni Association Petaling Jaya Klang Valley

Telephone Contact:  +603 7957 0318

85 Degrees Bakery Cafe Hurstville NSW

There are several outlets of this bakery cafe for several years now in Australia.  Did they coem from the USA?

Each franchised outlet is in a busy area, often in suburbs so-called by a diverse Asian demographic.   The one in Hurstville is rather roomy and lots of baked stuff on its shelves.   The base of Sydney operations is in Chester Hill, a suburb south-west of the Sydney city centre.

Some of the cake creations would be viewed as rather leaning on the East Asian dimension  - Strawberry Angel (with chocolate base and top) and Mango Cheese ( with yoghurt).   However, to counter this perspective, there are also Death by Chocolate, US Cheesecake, Coffee Brulee and Blueberry Marble options.    

The pastries are definitely filled with ingredients more suited to perhaps Anime loving fans and non-mainstream cultures - for example, garlic, pork, tuna, green tea, red bean, shallots, pork floss, coconut, Hokkaido butter cream and Boroh or pineapple buns.   Sung seems to be a variation emphasised…

Penang - Lor Mee

Lor mee is another of those street foods that are not commonly available in Western societies, but are easily found in southern China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The dish is iconic of the Teochew Province in China and has been mainly brought to equatorial climes by immigrants over the last few centuries. It combines snippets of ingredients in a thick savoury sauce. Above, the lor mee with roast pork and sliced hard boiled egg accompaniments at the Fong Sheng Cafe, along Lorong Selamat in Georgetown, Penang - the place was introduced by May Wah and Henry Quah.

The cafe harks back to the seventies or eighties - and maybe earlier - what caught my eye were (above) freshly blended fruit and/or vegetable juices and (below) metal and plastic contraptions of the food trade.

Hot and cold drinks are easily on offer from the cafe (above and below) at very reasonable prices.

Another version of the dish (below) taken whilst Bob Lee was enjoying them in another cafe or coffee shop in Georgetown…