Ten days in Vietnam part 8: Last day in Halong Bay

Our next trip in the National Park was the village of Viet Hai, which seems to be a forced stop for tourists who land on Cat Ba Island during their boat tours of the bay. The view, especially around sunset time is pretty:


The village in itself has little charm, with its shops selling overpriced fruits and drinks. Streets are lined with tropical crops, such as mango or litchis. I was quite shocked to discover the Australian tree Acacia mangium in plantations. This species is apparently widely planted in tropical countries to produce timber, and also to improve soil nitrogen levels.


Of all the trees in Viet Hai, the ones that get the most attention are probably the milk trees (Alstonia sp.), whose white clusters of flowers fill the village with a lovely strong scent:


After a nice calm night on the boat, we headed to a more open area of the bay to visit some rather smelly floating fish farms. Fishing boats carry light bulbs which are used to attract fish at night, particularly squids:


I am not sure of the health of the fishes which are farmed in those tiny enclosures, but the wildlife certainly looked interesting, with colourful sponges and clams attached to the floating plastic containers.

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Our final stop of the trip was a trip to Hospital Cave, a bomb-proof hospital which was built in the sixties, and used during the American War. Concrete was used to create 17 rooms, an operating theater, kitchen and even a swimming pool inside the natural cave. It is dark, wet and cold, which makes for a nice change from the exterior conditions.

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The entrance of the cave was cleverly devised to be hidden by vegetation, so the cave never got discovered by helicopters during the war. The top of the stairs by which it is accessed offers a great view over Cat Ba:

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And we even found the lovely gesneriad Chirita hamosa in flower at the entrance of the cave:

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