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Saturday in Halong Bay

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Halong Bay, VietnamIt’s been a few years since I’ve been out on a boat in Vietnam’s Halong Bay.

I’d heard from friends that things had gotten really crowded out there: too many tourist boats. Too much diesel fume in the air. Too much trash thrown into the water.

No doubt: Halong Bay is still beautiful. No wonder it’s Vietnam’s prime tourist attraction. But you can see how crowded the waters of the bay are in this little film I made.

UNESCO designated the bay with its hundreds of little islands a World Heritage Site in 1994. Rumor has it that UNESCO is considering withdrawing this title because of the damage that tourism is doing to the area. Not a pleasant thought. But then again: visiting the bay today, I was part of the problem. Oops.

According to Wikipedia,

Fuel and oil, along with tourist litter, have created pollution problems, which impact on both the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem of the islands. Human waste from portable toilets erected for tourists, finds its way into the soil and water surrounding the islands, once more altering the ecosystem functioning, through increased nutrient flow.

and

The delicate limestone cave ecosystems are diminishing as tourists visiting the caves break off stalagmites and stalactites. Litter, including wine bottles, are dropped into cave streams. Visitors exhale carbon dioxide, which has a deleterious effect on the caves. The mouths of some caves have been widened to allow for tourist access. This increase in light has led to an imbalance in the delicate links between flora and fauna, and a decrease in the humidity of the caves.

What can you do if you still want to see Halong Bay?

I can’t recommend going out there on a one-day trip. On these short trips, the tour operators only take you to the most visited places. You get a glimpse of the bay, but you can’t really enjoy it because you’re always with a crowd.

Halong Bay, VietnamMaybe it’s better to invest in a longer trip with a more conscientious tour operator. One that takes tourists on eco-friendly cruises or one that goes off the beaten track.

I’ve heard that some operators like HanoiKultour don’t go with the pack of boats touring the bay every day. Instead, they travel on different routes, visit different islands within the bay. That way, the masses of tourists spread out a little.

And who knows – Mother Nature might even have a chance to deal with the damage they do and actually recover.

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Written by Thorsten

August 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Raw meat – not your average street café

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Warning: Some pictures in this text show severely injured people. Do not continue reading this post if you find such depictions upsetting or objectionable.

Street cafe in front of Hanoi hospital

Street cafe in front of a Hanoi hospital

There are some things in Vietnam I just can’t understand or get used to. I’ve written about eating dogs before. That’s one example. Here’s another one.

There’s a hospital in downtown Hanoi that has a glass showcase on its outer wall. Displayed in it are very graphic pictures of injured people. I originally thought they showed victims of traffic accidents, because reckless driving is a big problem in Vietnam. But a friend told me that the photos depict work injuries and virus or bacterial infections treated at the hospital.

Display case with graphic photos of injured people

Display case with graphic photos of injured people

Are these people the hospital was able to save? Or are these the cases where the doctors couldn’t help?

Are these pictures meant to show what horrible injuries the hospital doctors have to deal with? Or should they serve as a warning to people to be careful and drive cautiously and avoid such injuries?

The pictures make me sick. I try not to look at them whenever I pass that street corner.

graphic depictions of severe injuries

Graphic depictions of severe injuries in front of a Hanoi hospital

I disapprove of displaying these pictures on a public intersection in the heart of Hanoi. How do the people depicted here feel about being shown like this? What about the friends and relatives of the victims? These are things that passers-by – and especially children – shouldn’t have to see.

What strikes me, though, is that Vietnamese people don’t seem to be as squeamish as me or as sensitive to the ethical questions that displaying these photographs etail. They just don’t seem to mind these pictures. They’re able to ignore them.

Hanoi street café with display case

Hanoi street café in front of hospital display case

These days, a street cafe has even put out its chairs right underneath this traumatizing display case. Cafe patrons sit just in front of these horrible pictures of severely injured people. They eat, drink and chat as if they were sitting on the banks of a balmy lake.

There are some things in Vietnam I just can’t understand.

Written by Thorsten

July 31, 2011 at 6:02 am

Useful English dialogue

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schoolgirls on Ha Long pierI went for a walk this afternoon. Not much else you can do on a Sunday in Ha Long City (apart from taking the boat out into Ha Long Bay. But the weather wasn’t great this weekend, so we cancelled our planned boat trip).

As I strolled along the Ha Long pier, a bunch of giggling girls wanted to try out their English on me. I guess they must have been in their early teens. The dialogue went something like this

What’s your name?

Thorsten.

My name is (unintelligible Vietnamese girl’s name). Where you come from?

Germany.

Where is your wife?

– uhm – Germany. (I didn’t want to go into detail that might have traumatised them)

Are you lonely?

– uhm… ?

I guess this sequence of questions can come in handy for some kind of women in some kind of situations.

But who taught these innocent schoolgirls to ask these questions?Vietnamese schoolgirls, Ha Long City

Written by Thorsten

June 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Vietnam impressions

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Written by Thorsten

April 4, 2011 at 6:35 am

Posted in asia, travel, vietnam

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