Ha Long Bay was our next port of call, after Da Nang (actually Chan May, little more than a harbor and o dock for loading building material, located half way between Hoi An and Hue, the two major tourist draws from cruise ships). This area, which is located in the northeastern part of the country, is known for its limestone formations and is a World Heritage Site (Vietnam seems to have plenty of these). We arrived at two in the afternoon and departed at seven, which provided enough time for a low pass by hundreds of rock formations and scattered fishing "villages", little more than a bunch of boats lashed together.
We were fortunate, because previous cruises had made this stop in fog. On one venture, our ship collided with a Vietnamese container ship, an event which made world news. This had disturbed my children, but I felt confidant the the cruise line would be especially careful. My confidence trumped their fears.
Weather was overcast, which was not all bad. This was good enough from photographs and prevented sunburn. Excursion junks tied up to the ship, so passengers could step off one and on to the other.
Surprisingly, this was the only place in Vietnam where we were confronted with beggars, all of which came by boat. A few passengers dropped fruit or chocolate, which was eagerly fetched by net. Some bought fruit offered through the window of the excursion boat, after which the boat took back the item. I wondered how many times he sold the same bananas.
After seeing so photographs of this region, I had looked forward to seeing the real thing. My wife was not thrilled with this stop, but she has never been much for nature. I needed years...decades...to get her interested--even to notice--sunsets. Fortunately, she had enough fellow passengers to complain to and talk about other topics, while I enjoyed the landscape and took copious photos.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.