Green Mango

fishing villages, the riff-raff edges of hanoi, and the green mango

Sunday, January 16: In the morning, we float among the descending dragon’s islets of jade.   My cabin gleams, its wood rich and brown and deep as the earth.  I’m in my down comforter cocoon.  The quiet is punctuated only by the lapping of tiny waves against the boat.  This is a time, this morning, when I savor  being alone, when I have moments to myself, but I know I can connect when I choose to.  I don’t mind being alone under these kinds of circumstances.  It’s only when I feel there is no one for me, no one to connect with, that loneliness haunts me.

Sunrise on Halong Bay

Sunrise on Halong Bay

Yes, I’m here on top of this water world, this bay of limestone and emeralds.  I love it.  Too much for words.  I lie in bed and soak it in, breathing the sea air, pulling the comforter close to ward off the chill seeping through the door.  I still taste the happiness I felt last night.  How, I wonder, can I have it again?  Why is it that I’m greedy?  Why can’t I just enjoy it when it comes without wanting it more, again and again?  Could Buddhism, I wonder, teach me to do this?

the morning after

the morning after

After breakfast, we go on bamboo boats through a floating fishing village.  In all of Halong Bay there are about 1600 residents of 4 fishing villages.  They live on floating houses and sustain themselves by fishing.  In this particular village, there are 59 floating houses and about 300 people.  They live here year round; they live with their children, who attend school at one little schoolhouse in the village, and their dogs, who protect what few belongings they have.  Ryan insists the dogs protect them from Somali pirates.

our bamboo boat operator

our bamboo boat operator

floating villages

floating villages

floating fishing villages

floating fishing villages

Most of the houses have generators for electricity, but they’re only allowed to use them from 7-9 each evening.  As we float past the villages in our bamboo boats, we can see flat screen televisions inside the huts, complete stereo systems.  Thanh has told us that generations live here, that their sole livelihood is fishing, that it’s a hard life.  I can believe it.  I can’t imagine living like this year round and rarely visiting land, or cities, or people outside this small community.

karsts and fishing villages

karsts and fishing villages

in the midst of the fishing village

in the midst of the fishing village

floating houses

floating houses

more colorful floating houses

more colorful floating houses

Before we came out on our boats, Thanh told us that there is a problem with the residents throwing “rabbits” in the water.  Several of us look at each other, baffled.  Rabbits?  Where would they get rabbits to throw in the water?  WHY would they throw these rabbits in the water?  I ask Thanh, probably with a “duh” look on my face: they throw rabbits in the water?  Thanh nods, Yes!  But one of our group knows what he is saying, “Rubbish, he’s saying they throw rubbish in the water.”  Ohhh.  That explains.  Thanh says Indochina Junk and other tour operators have a system set up to take away their rubbish.  To promote a green bay.  Bravo for them!

fishing villages

fishing villages

home sweet home

home sweet home

picturesque neighborhoods

picturesque neighborhoods

isolation

isolation

We stop near the little blue schoolhouse and go into a pearl shop where I see beautiful black and white watercolors of the fishing village for only $6, but since Thanh mentioned only that we should bring $3 to tip our boat operator, I have no other cash on me.  I have to pass up the watercolors, much to my regret.

kids who live in the floating fishing village

kids who live in the floating fishing village

bamboo boats

bamboo boats

a congregation of bamboo boats

a congregation of bamboo boats

more floating houses

more floating houses

I love the colors of the houses!

I love the colors of the houses!

rowing back to the Dragon Pearl

rowing back to the Dragon Pearl

me in the rowboat

me in the rowboat

boats docked at a floating house

boats docked at a floating house

We take a boat back to the Dragon Pearl, where we return to the dock and meet our van to return to Hanoi.

Ken, Ryan and Thea

Ken, Ryan and Thea

Christo and Julia

Christo and Julia

the two French boys

the two French boys

Ruth

Ruth

On the way back, we are all quiet in the van. Ken sleeps, Ruth reads, and I nap in between staring out the window, and closely observing, with clenched teeth, the harrowing chicken games on the road.  Out the window are the riff-raff edges of Hanoi.  Gray woolen skies.  Smoldering fires burning in open fields.  Women in conical hats bending over in rice fields with huge power grids in their centers.  Water buffalo grazing, oblivious to the slummy areas surrounding the fields.  Further along, more ladies in conical hats selling loaves of French bread hung on racks displayed along the highway, open to the elements, the pollution.  When the ladies make a sale, they bag the loaves in bright yellow plastic bags.  Many of these yellow bags have made their way into the unkempt patches of dirt and grass along the roadway, yellow blights yelping out to be noticed and hauled away.

All I know is that I feel a sore throat coming on.

Back in Hanoi we ride alongside the ceramic mosaic mural on the dyke beside Hanoi’s Red River.  The wall depicts scenes of the different periods of Hanoi, along with modern art work, children’s drawings, and paintings of Hanoi.  It is said to be the world’s largest ceramic mosaic.

the mosaic wall in hanoi

the mosaic wall in hanoi

the mosaic wall

the mosaic wall

I go back to my room at the Ngocmai, where I climb under the duvet and watch some TV, drink some orange juice, hope to feel better.  After a while, I go out to the fabulous Green Mango for a light dinner.   It’s an elegant and rich place, hung with draperies, dimly lit, with artistically stark dried flower arrangements.  Lonely Planet describes this place as having the feel of “an opium den.”

the green mango ~ rich and elegant

the green mango ~ rich and elegant

The wait staff all wear tee-shirts for a cause: Save the Cat Ba Langurs. The Cat Ba langurs are the most endangered primate species, with only about 53 individuals alive.  (Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project)

my waitress with the Cat Ba Langur T-shirt

my waitress with the Cat Ba Langur T-shirt

My dinner consists of beer, appetizer, salad, dessert, tea.  Grapes in goat cheese and cashew nut, Green Mango grilled prawn salad, lemon custard with strawberries and raspberries, chamomile tea.  The perfect ending to a perfect three days.

prawns salad

prawns salad

grapes with goat cheese and cashew nut

grapes with goat cheese and cashew nut

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Categories: Cat Ba Langurs, floating fishing villages, Green Mango, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Indochina Junk, Vietnam | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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