Vietnam, Cat Ba: The floating Van Gia village.

This was not in the guidebook. It was a discovery that gave us a very blissful afternoon! We had only heard of it and only assumed it exists on a kayak the same morning, rowing to the Monkey Island. The Van Gia floating village lies a few meters away from the southernmost port of Cat Ba island. We rented a little engine fishing boat for only a few dollars and the old gentleman who sailed it was so kind as to give as a full tour across the whole area. What we discovered was a real revelation! An entire autonomous community of 733 people sharing 176 households lives there, earning their livelihood almost exclusively by fishing. The houses look clean and well taken care off: the well-off households even have TV sets and are fully equipped but still humble and far from the tourist frenzy that seems to have somehow “corrupted” the locals-unsure of how to behave before this upcoming, rather violent tourist development. And this brings to the sad story: Vietnam is in S.O.S. The area of Halong Bay (gate to the islands which are supposed to be protected by UNESCO) is suffering from the greedy development of the hotel industry which is literally eating off what would otherwise be a real paradise: massive hotel constructions with absolutely no respect to the culture and natural surroundings, neon lights everywhere, noise pollution from bars and clubs, cheap drinking tourism and terror spreading over the nearby islands. Never before have I seen so much rubish in the sea and coasts. What’s even more alarming is that nobody seems to be concerned either on behalf of the authorities or the locals. It looks like a parody to see happy travelers swimming care-free among plastic bottles, sanitary napkins and plastic bags. It seems that the locals lack environmental awareness and business ethics, the government probably lacks ethics of any kind and the tourists visiting alike. It appears that the paradise will shortly be gone. I’ve got photos which I’d rather not show. I’ll just share my Van Gia shootings to wash bitterness away.


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