Fishing in the bay
Just south of China in the far northeast corner of Vietnam is a bay of nearly 2,000 islands. It is in many ways the cradle of Vietnamese civilization, with an archaeological record 25,000 years old. Fishermen have lived on these islands and waters for millennia. Some villagers rarely set foot on land, spending most of their lives in boats and floating homes.
Halong Bay is also one of the most beautiful places on earth, which is why hordes of tourists hop on junk boats made to look old and they cruise those islands, stopping hither and yon to explore caves and mountains. You can imagine how good the seafood is — and you’d be wrong. It’s even better. True, the life on land isn’t so pretty and the town is a bit of a pit. But you’d be hard-pressed to find better crab or shrimp or saltwater fish than what you’ll eat every day in Halong Bay.
If you get your hands on December’s issue of Gourmet, you can learn more about Halong Bay in my feature, “On the Waterfront.” I haven’t even seen it yet (it takes a while for my copy to get here, and the issues on the shelves around here are always at least two months old). If Halong City is ever on your itinerary, be sure to try the local seafood restaurants on the street heading uphill, around the corner from the post office. Cross the bay to the “other” Halong City to check out the seafood market.
“Crab fried with salt” (and lemongrass, garlic, rice wine, chili…)
Light on water
Working on the boat