Bai Chay

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    • Day 130

      Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - 1 of 2

      May 24, 2023 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 86 °F

      After navigating the South China Sea (East Sea, to the Vietnamese) and the limestone islands, we spent today in Ha Long Bay. We slowly got into the dock after a very long entrance because of the maze of islands and junks to get past. You can see from the photos that it was misty grey day but that gave these islands, that are all named, more character.

      You might ask, where is Ha Long Bay? It is in North Vietnam, and only 106 miles from Hanoi. Hanoi has about 3 million people and was run by Ho Chi Minh from 1954-1969. Ha Long Bay was also the site for many naval battles and the Vietnam war -- a story for another time. As you know, the US bombed Hanoi in 1965 until 1975 when North Vietnam took control of all of Vietnam. Hanoi is an industrial and agricultural center but more than 75% work for this Communist government. Economic policies that are open to companies making money here has attracted investments in the last 30 years.

      The Bay has been a World Heritage site since UNESCO in 1994. We spent our day in a very different environment from Hanoi, filled with history and culture in Ha Long Caves. Ha Long (where the dragon descends to the sea) is famous for its 2000 islands in the water and hundreds of small mountains with caves on land next to the sea. The grottoes and caves is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The names include Heavenly Gate, Tortoise Rock, Man Head Rock, The Isle of Wonders, Tea Pot Rock, Elephant and Devil's Face.

      “Where the dragon descends to the sea” comes from a story about the area being attacked by northern invaders. Local settlers prayed and asked the sky god for help who subsequently sent a dragon that stomped down on the earth with such force that mountains crumbled, forming large valleys that soon filled with water. Only the peaks of the mountains, now these rocky islands of Ha Long Bay, remain above the surface. Halong Bay and the surrounding area are made up of this thick limestone, which began forming during the Carboniferous period, around 340 million years ago. Ahhhhh. (Note: I read a few other dragon stories of how these islands were formed but I think this one sounded most "realistic".)

      After cruising the bay in a Junk and hearing stories and myths of the area, we began to see some of the “famous” islands, known for their many stories and their shapes, creatively looking like animals and scenes. Here is the most famous story about the “Chicken Chickens”. Note: in the next post you will see this evening we received gifts shaped like these two rocks made from coal.

      The Halong Kissing rocks are thought by many not to be fighting chickens but rather a rooster and hen kissing that represent the test of time and their belief in eternal love. It is located in Trong Mai Islet 3 miles from Bai Chay Wharf where we left from. The islet stands at about 30 feet above sea level, and according to some, the two chickens have stood by each other for thousands of years, representing the steadiness of faithful love.

      There is a traditional folk story told by the Vietnamese that talks of the origins of Vietnam. In this story the highest God in Heaven, Ngoc Hoang, sent a ferocious dragon mother and her children to help the early Vietnamese fight off foreign invaders (maybe the same ones that created all the islands). When the war was won, Ngoc Hoang was surprised that the dragon mother and her children did not return to heaven and sent two chickens to bring them home. The chickens were so taken by the beauty of Halong Bay that the two chickens themselves fell in love and forgot the mission that Ngoc Hoang had given them! From then on they remained in Halong Bay and over time petrified and turned into stone.

      The other highlight of the day was the visit to Dông Thiên Cung, the Heaven Palace Cave of the Dragon King and his Queen. This cave which has been part of legend for generations, was lost to the jungle covering it until 1993 when it was rediscovered. The way up to Thien Cung Cave is through a winding pathway of steps, surrounded by thick jungle. The cave is a dry cave and is a complex inner structure with high ceilings.

      The legend of Thien Cung Cave says that it was the ancient home of a Dragon King and his Queen. The Dragon King and Queen had a wedding at the heart of the cave, attended by mythical creatures. After the marriage, they had 100 children and lived in the cave while the King protected Halong Bay’s inhabitants from invaders. When their 100 children were grown, half of the children remained in Halong Bay as its guardians and protectors, and the other half left to help the rest of Vietnam. We could see (with a little help) all the creatures and animals that came to the wedding.

      A fun adventure that was incredibly beautiful as the light shines in from all different directions and openings and entrances/exits to the cave.
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    • Day 130


      May 24, 2023 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 86 °F

      Many of us born in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s remember the Vietnam War as a long, costly and divisive conflict between the North Vietnam communist government and South Vietnam/United States. More than 2 million people, 58,000 Americans, were killed in the Vietnam War until we finally pulled out in 1973. There were over 3 million wounded and 12 million refugees. Communist forces ended the war by seizing control of South Vietnam in 1975. Over 3 million American troops served there beginning 1954 with more than half a million that came back with PTSD (not to mention all the drug problems).

      Vietnam had been under French colonial rule since the 19th century until the Japanese invaded in WWII and then Ho Chi Minh decided to follow the Chinese/Soviet models and adopt communism in Hanoi (1945) as the French followed with supporting Bao Dai in a more Western culture in Saigon (1949) … splitting the country at the 17th parallel.

      By 1955 American military and the CIA helped “capture“ 100,000 Viet Cong (Communists) in the South. Working under the domino theory that if one Southeast Asian country fell to communism, many other countries would follow, JFK increased U.S. aid in 1962 (about 9,000 troops). Instability in the area convinced LBJ to increase support and after US destroyers were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, the US attacked North Vietnam.

      In addition to attacks throughout Vietnam, from 1964-1973, the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos and Cambodia to prevent flow of supplies to North Vietnam. In 1965 we sent 250,000 troops to Vietnam, air attacks in the North and ground fighting in the South. The North Vietnamese did not let up with help from China and the Soviet Union. By 1967, the number of American troops in Vietnam was 500,000, and U.S. casualties had reached 15,058 killed and 109,527 wounded.

      As the war went on there was no way to tell if anyone was winning and lots of mistrust in the government and between 1966-1973, more than 503,000 U.S. military personnel deserted, and a large anti-war movement started protests in the US. By 1968 there were many signs that showed our involvement was wrong from drugs, civilian killings and support for corrupt governments overseas. When Nixon became president, he announced a program to withdraw U.S. troops but increasing aerial bombardment and training the South Vietnamese. Unfortunately, nothing changed and in the next few years there was more deaths to Americans and innocent South Vietnamese (including the My Lai Massacre). Anti-war protest grew in the US in particular on college campuses (i.e, Kent State shooting) until finally troops were withdrawn and other deserted and many dodged the draft before it ended in 1973 with a peace agreement between the US and North Vietnam. Fighting still continued until 1975 when Saigon was lost to North Vietnam. Warfare had demolished the country’s infrastructure and economy, and reconstruction proceeded slowly.

      In 1976, Vietnam was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, though sporadic violence continued over the next 15 years, including conflicts with neighboring China and Cambodia. Under a broad free market policy put in place in 1986, the economy began to improve, boosted by oil export revenues and an influx of foreign capital. Trade and diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the U.S. resumed in the 1990s. In the past 20 years, the growth here has been astonishing as business have opened, infrastructure built, and financial success came to many people.

      Sadly, in the US, the effects of the Vietnam War continued. We spent more than $120 billion on the conflict from 1965-73 leading to inflation, oil crisis, a divided nation and continued physical and mental health issues for those that tried to get back to the lives they left behind. Many returning veterans faced negative reactions from both opponents of the war (who viewed them as having killed innocent civilians) and its supporters (who saw them as having lost the war), along with the effects of exposure to Agent Orange (originally used to thin out the dense forest of Vietnam).
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    • Day 286

      Halong Bay

      August 16, 2015 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

      Vietnam ohne Halong Bay geht nicht - dachten wir uns...und viiiiele andere Touristen auch.

      Auf einem der typischen (= schön runtergekommenen) Holzboote ging es hinaus in die Bucht.
      Da man uns leider auf ein falsches Boot gesteckt hatte (2-Tages-Tour statt 3 Tage), verbrachten wir viel Zeit in der einen Bucht.

      Zum Glück hatte man uns aber für den nächsten Tag ein privates Boot organisiert, so dass wir die Halong Bucht doch noch von ihrer schönen Seite gesehen haben!
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    • Day 8

      Halong Bucht - Bootstour

      November 14, 2012 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

      zuerst ging es auf einer Bootstour durch die "trockene" Halongbucht.

      Anschließend ging es weiter zur "normalen" Halongbucht wo wir eine erneute Bootstour unternahmen. Wir besichtigten die Höhlen von Hang Song Sot und legten auf dem Rückweg noch einen kurzen Badestopp an einer kleinen Insel ein.Read more

    • Day 130

      Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - 2 of 2

      May 24, 2023 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 86 °F

      See first posting for explanation.

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    Bai Chay

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