The limestone karst landscapes of Vietnam are mesmerizing. It’s like you’re in another world. During our stay in Hanoi we did two overnight trips to these limestone landscapes: Halong Bay and Ninh Binh. First we travelled to the north to Halong Bay: this dreamy mountain area in the sea is a Unesco World Heritage site and rightly so! We boarded a boat (a “junk” ) that would take us on a two day journey through this beautiful area.
Halong Bay is an area covering more than 1500 km2 and these limestone outcroppings have been formed over a period of many millions of years. There are more than 700 different little islands in Halong Bay in all kinds of shapes. Our boat sailed past islands as ” demon face island”, ” teapot island”, ” snail island” and many more!
People were collecting oysters, clams and shells on the rocky beaches of the islands. Even though the area is touristy, it’s also a place where a lot of Vietnamese people do their fishing and there are actually small villages built right on top of the water.
Floating on the water with the baby in the hammock ;-)The area is riddled with caves and we visited one of the biggest!
As the night fell we witnessed a beautiful sundown…
The boat anchored for the night, and we floated there peacefully among many other colorful boats. Magical!
The crew taught us how to do squid-fishing (which has to be done at night). Ward hauled a long bamboo pole with a fishline attached to it up and down in the water, hoping to lure some squids the cook would prepare for us, but unfortunately no bites ;-)
We returned to our tiny cabin to get some sleep, because the next day we would get up really early to do Tai Chi on the deck while watching the sunrise!
After we returned from our beautiful boatride through Halong Bay, we travelled to another karst area, more to the south of Hanoi, called Ninh Binh. This area is also known as ” Halong Bay on land”, and has the same kind of limestone formations. But this time, they are surrounded by jungle, banana trees and bright green rice fields. Also a very magical place!!
We stayed a night in a very quiet and remote village, and got up really early the next morning to go to the limestone karsts.There, we got in a tiny boat that was peddled by an old woman who spoke no English whatsoever but insisted on telling us a lot about the neighbourhood :-)
Because it was so early, the whole area was so peaceful and quiet. There were colorful birds everywhere. We saw a kingfisher!
The river was lined with huge limestone mountains, and riddled with caves which we peddled through. We used a flashlight to find our way through the caves which had fantastic formations.
Sometimes we would meet other fishermen, who would strike up lively conversations with our peddler woman :-)
The reflections in the water were so intense, it was like dreamworld!
After our boattrip, we took the bike and biked for about an hour through the limestone landscapes and visited a couple of temples along the way. The people were working hard, gathering snails in the water.
I was a little rainy, which actually enhanced the mysterious atmosphere of this area! Really, really beautiful!!
The limestone karst areas of Vietnam are really amazing. The surreal shapes in the mist create a very dreamy atmosphere, which was not only very calming, but also a fantastic inspiration for our art!
Next post: The Mekong Delta and the battlefields of Cu Chi!