I had to check the date when I read this new post about the non-white boats being banned from sailing in Halong Bay in Vietnam. Since 1 May (not 1 April as I expected) all passenger boats must be painted white to comply with new regulations set by the Quang Ninh Department of Transport.
Local tour operators at the world famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Ha Long Bay are understandably upset and annoyed at the extra expense this will incur. Halong Bay obtained UNESCO status in 1994 and for me personally, one of the highlights of my trip to Halong was seeing the traditional junks and ferries sailing on the waters, resplendent in the traditional colours. I can only imagine that now the boats look stark and rather clinical.
Halong Bay was also voted as one of the New7Wonders of Nature in a global public vote, although one could argue that the very existence of the boats and junks in their various colours make Ha Long Bay more appealing aesthetically as well as historically. It’s suggested that the local authorities wanted to tidy up the image of Halong Bay, but traditional junks are the very appeal of the area.
Unfortunately all boats that are not 100% white will see their vessels confined to port and their licences revoked. There are real concerns that Ha long Bay could become a very expensive tourist destination indeed as many of the wooden boats require repainting every 10 days or so, a cost which will surely be passed on to tourists. Or worst still, we’ll be confined to huge hulking bland passenger ships – a sad departure from the very sights we travel half way around the world to see!
I have used this as an opportunity to post a few deliciously gratuitous photos of Halong Bay’s boats as they were.
By Julie Bowman