Vietnam! November 10th to December 3rd, 2006.

The group of us that went kayaking in China in 2002 decided to go to Asia again. This time we wanted to kayak in the World Heritage Site of Halong Bay in Vietnam. This is actually another part of the same limestone deposit that we paddled through on the Li River in China. But here the ocean has worn the limestone down into thousands of limestone islands and karsks sticking out of the water. The sea continues to carve caves, coves and lagoons into the limestone so I figured I had to paddle in this area!

Jenning Gee was, I think, burned out on all the planning that she did for our China trip and did not want to put herself through that much trouble this time. She wanted to do a canned tour through Halong Bay. There is a company called Mountain Travel Sobek (MTS) that does one of these truos. We know about them because there is a BASK member named Joe Toback (no relation) who works for MTS. He has given talks at BASK meetings with beautiful slides of Halong Bay and other places that he leads trips. Joe is also the person who gave me a ride back to my car when I was shipwrecked at Horseshoe Cove over 10 years ago. Joe talked to a bunch of us interested in this trip and promised that he could design us a custom trip if we could get 7 or 8 BASK people to commit to going on it. Jenning advertised the trip in the BASK email list service, had parties at her house to try to drum up interest. She put off making final plans in the hopes that someone else would join us. But in the end there were only 5 of us willing to take the time and spend the money to go. We had to give up on the idea of a custom designed trip and just sign up for the regular MTS “Undiscovered Vietnam” tour. One of my disappointments in this was the fact that there were only 4 days kayaking in Halong Bay, with other activities planned for the rest of the time.

We flew out of San Francisco a few days early and got to spend some time exploring and shopping in Hanoi. When the official “tour” started it included walking and driving tours around Hanoi to visit different sites. By the third day we were driven north to Ba Be National Park and taken across a lake by boat to live for a few days in a “home stay” with a Vietnamese family in their wooden stilt house on the edge of a rice paddy. This was actually pretty nice, and reminded me of my arguments with Jenning about always staying in Five Star Hotels in China. I had joked that I would rather stay in dirt floored hovels and I sort of got my wish at last. Actually the house was on stilts way up off the ground with a clean wood floor. We hiked in the park around the home stay for two days. The day after we moved out we did get to do some river and lake kayaking.

All text and images Copyright © 2006 by Mike Higgins / contact