Photographer's Note

Cat Ba Island - The floating village of Ben Beo

I briefly interrupt my series on Kerala because Gert's Vietnam pictures made me have a look again at my photos of my journey just over two years ago.

On his last picture Gert was heading for Halong Bay.
The pictures I show here were taken on the way back from Halong Bay.

Just like Gert in 1993 and like just about every traveler ever in North Vietnam, I booked an organized tour for the trip to Halong Bay.
Since it are islands and rocks rising from the sea that you visit by boat, a tour is the easiest way to visit this part of the country.

I opted for a three-day tour. That means that the 1st night you sleep on the boat in a cabin. The 2nd day you spend in a pretty good hotel in Cat Ba, a small touristy town on Cat Ba Island and the 3rd night you are already back in Hanoi. To be honest, it was a 2 and a half day tour with departure in and return to Hanoi.

The first day and most of the second day the weather was very nice and clear.
At the end of the afternoon of the second day, by the boat en route to Cat Ba, the weather soon became a lot darker. No more sunshine and we had the most dull sky you can imagine.
During the day we had sailed between the beautiful rocky outcrops in the sea and visiting a large spectacular cave. Probably Gert will soon show pictures of it.

Most of the people on the boat were already tired and the darker weather made several tourists decide to sit inside.
The guide had announced that we almost arrived in Cat Ba. Only we would first see a floating village.
It concerned the floating village of Ben Beo.
Only high rock peaks separate Ben Beo from the town of Cat Ba.

I quickly returned to deck because I surely wanted to see a floating village.
I have to admit that I found this one of the most amazing views I’ve ever had. Almost surreal. There were a lot of boats, but all other structures floated on the water. It were not houses on stilts!

So I said to our guide (a very sweet young man who already had given expert explanation about everything during two days and who kindly answered every question): ‘Wow! Are we going to visit this village?’.
His answer was that our boat was much too large to be able to sail in the floating village. That seemed quite plausible.
So I asked again if there was a way to visit the village later on the day or the day after.
The guide smiled to me and said ‘No, this is not a place that tourists want to visit’.

I found this a very strange answer but had little time to respond since I wanted to take pictures and the entrance to the bay was really not wide so our boat passed quickly.

When we arrived in Cat Ba town, it became dark and there was only some time to check in, look for a place to have dinner and a few beers.

The next morning we had an early breakfast and we sailed just as quickly a second time past the floating village.
Again I thought it was one of the most fascinating places of the trip but passing by was far too fast.
The tour guide did not seem to understand that I paid so much attention to the village on the water. I had never seen such a village. I’ve seen villages on stilts in other countries, but never a floating village.

A feeling of deep regret overwhelmed me. Tourists were deemed not to want to visit this. Unimaginable. Who was I then? An alien?

The most fascinating place of the three-day trip and enjoying the view was so much limited in time.
Later on the journey through Vietnam I would be disappointed several times but for other reasons (which have already been explained at my earlier photos of this country).

The photos are far from great due to the light conditions. I saturated the colours. The post processing work wasn’t easy.
Nevertheless, I would recommend to anyone who finds the main picture somewhat special and attractive to look at the workshops.
I don't care if you give a smiley or not. But whoever goes to the WS is rewarded with four pictures.
Meanwhile you'll have understood that I was dumb with astonishment seeing this sight :)
I didn't find other pictures of Ben Beo on this site. 

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Additional Photos by Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4949 W: 17 N: 11865] (47956)
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