Return to Vietnam

Trip is like 'a National Geographic-type adventure'

Posted May 1, 2014

Floating fishing village in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. (Photo by Clarence Williams)

We left Hanoi for Ha Long Bay and along the way saw more beautiful farmland, growing a variety of crops like soy beans, onions, potatoes and of course, rice. Rice is one of the primary foods in Vietnam. The south, such as in the Mekong Delta can grow three harvests of rice, but because of a colder climate, here from Hanoi northward can only grow two.

On our bus trip north we traveled through many villages and hamlets and passed some major industry plants. We saw a very large Canon complex that employs more than 10,000 people.

After noticing what looked like a power plant, I asked our guide, Tuan, who was 8 years old at the end of what they called the "American War," if this plant was a military target. His information revealed that it was bombed by our forces and was rebuilt after the war by the Russians.

The one closer to Ha Long Bay was also destroyed, and it was rebuild by the Chinese. Both of these power plants are coal-fired facilities. All of the children and the elderly were moved to the countryside due to bombing raids.

Ha Long Bay itself was constantly bombed to disrupt and destroy the shipping supply provided by the North Vietnam allies. I should note that one of the first American imprisoned in the old French-building, Hoa Lo Prison (also known as the "Hanoi Hilton." Lieutenant JG Everette Alvarez was shot down on a bombing run in Ha Long Bay in August 1964.

We boarded a junk ship for a overnight cruise around the bay. It was like a National Geographic-type adventure. Ha Long Bay consists of more than 2,000 islets, which have limestone mountains that are a sight to behold. No picture can do it justice as the mountains rise out of the ocean several hundred feet. Russian cargo ships used to hide in the waters between these islets to avoid being targeted while waiting to be off loaded further in the harbor. 

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About this Blog:

WRAL producer/director Clarence Williams is going back to Vietnam, where he served in the war 44 years ago. He'll blog about his experience during his 13-day trip and share stories and pictures along the way.