Visit Cat Ba, Ha Long with foreigners
The writer Tran Thanh Giao is Deputy General Secretary of Ho Chi Minh City writers’ Association and a member of Vietnam Writers’ Association. He has written many works of the industry, the sea, islands and human of Haiphong. “Visit Cat Ba Ha Long with foreigners” is a beautiful memory of him.

On the occasion of having a business in Hanoi, I spent some days on visiting Cat Ba, Ha Long. When I called a tourism company, Ms. Thao – director of that company, was excited to explain me about “an open tour” that I will tell you as follows:
I called her at 4 o’ clock. And after 1 hour, I received a message: We would depart on the following day. At 8 o’clock, an employee of that tourism company brought me documents and I paid 22 $ (about 350.000 VND) for 2-day & 1-night  Ha Long – Cat Ba tour, including cost for transport, meal and hotel…On the following day, another employee of that company gave me a lift to the gathering place near Sword Lake.

A tourism bus ran around to pick passengers; most of them are foreigners with big bags. In the bus, there are many types of tours: one-day tour, two-day tour, three-day tour, or longer-day tour. It means tours are so open and adventurous…It is quite funny when I hear phrase “take compassion”, because foreigners do not have a habit of saying “take compassion” as Vietnamese. However, all the passengers took compassion on the tour due to the long time of picking up passengers. Group of visiting Cat Ba is separated. After gathering all the passengers visiting Cat Ba, the tour guide took us to the boat. The tourism boat was quite large, well-decorated. It looked like a cafeteria with soft sofas. Waiters quickly served us Vietnamese food such as: fish cooked with brine, stir-fried cuttle-fish, Nem, rice….At each table sat 6 people. Next to me is a New Zealander. Opposite to him is his wife; beside his wife are other young passengers from Norway.

We talked in English. A New Zealand man was 70 years old, his wife 60. They travelled to Vietnam because of beautiful scenery, friendly human, safety and cheap cost. I thought that they were quite rich and sophisticated. Beside me on the right is a young man. He wanted to eat rice in a small cooking-pot, but the waiter did not understand him. And because I can speak French, so I helped him explain to the waiter.

The young man was from Marseille, France. He had been studying art in Hanoi. He visited Ha Long to research floating houses. We talked in French happily and attracted an Italian man and a Canadian man.

After the meal, passengers were eager to be on the prow taking photographs and viewing. I asked the Italian: Was it the first time you had been in Ha Long? He nodded and said: Fantastic! He asked how many times I had been in Ha Long. I answered: Did not remember, I had been here many times, and this time was after 30 year from the last time. He surprised: Travel? – No, only this time was for travel; and others I were here for writing. – In the war time, did you go here? – Yes, some times. One time I along with Vietnamese navigators went to the sea and were stuck at Haiphong port…He interrupted me: It was said that when American bombed and sprang mines strongly, there were no ships passing through outfall? – Exactly. But in reality, we cleared the mines and opened “a small path” through Ha Long Bay to transport goods to the South and Islands. He expressed the suspicion: He did not understand how we could open “a small path” through minefields? – I continued: In other time, I went along with the workers who always kept the light on sea and the lighthouse turned on, not except in the strong day bombings.

As you know, each lighthouse of any countries has its own regulation of turning on, turning off, which was recorded in the international marine map. Captains of the transoceanic ships can base on those signals to determine which countries they have been. It is also the sovereignty of a country. – He nodded: I understand…- Furthermore, every night we also need lighthouses for fishermen and transportation of goods to the South….American attacked lighthouses so as to make us blind….He nodded again: I understand…- At that time, I came to the lighthouse of Long Chau Island, an island of Ha Long bay, where bombs of American were dropped every day, but every night, the lighthouse was still turned on. – He shook the head and said: Terrible! – I continued: Thanks to that, I knew how they opened “a small path” through the minefields.

There was something I did not know and something I was not allowed to unveil, but I can tell in sum as follows: Allowing a small ship to run quickly through the minefields and emit strong impulses, for example by magnetic field; mines under the water were stimulated (similar to the situation when the large ships pass through), and exploded. Running around several times, mines are strongly exploded behind the stern. The water was raised up and made us wet. Until there were not any mines, we called it opening “a small path”…- He interrupted me: - The small ship could explode with mines anytime? – Exactly – But American dropped mines again, didn’t they? – Yes, dropped supplementary bombs. So, several days after opening “a small path”, they had to open a new small path by that way. He surprised, shook the head, opened his arms as though to hug the scenery of Ha Long bay and said that: Wonderful!

Beyond our eyes was the Island which had Thien Cung grotto. The ship landed. We had to pass through many tourism boats to step ashore. We submitted a ticket (which received in Bai Chay when step down from the ship, you should keep it careful), and freely visited grotto. Two New Zealand people climbed up the mountains quite well. They only had to rest 1 time on the bench, smiled happily when I took photographs for them.

There have no words which can describe the beauty of Thien Long grotto. I only describe simply that there have a breast-shaped stalactite which is white, smooth. Under it, there have many baby-shaped stalactites which remind people of Au Co legend….From Thien Cung grotto; we come to Dau Go grotto with the legend of Tran Hung Dao who hid the woodpiles under Bach Dang River…

But we have little time, we only climb and climb. It is very cold now, but we have to take off the warm clothes…Out of the grotto, we visit some other grottoes on the sea, cross the mountains by canoe. The canoes are quite small and paddled by hand. Most of boat drivers are young teenagers. There has a very beautiful girl paddling. When taking photographs, she looks like a tourist….
Trần Thanh Giao / Haiphong Security News.

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