Halong Bay is one of the most famous place in Vietnam, we visit it aboard a traditional boat which are called Junks.
But where are those from ?
Junk is obviously a traditional boat you can find in South east Asia but mainly in China and Vietnam. The way it is floating on water is very particular, it seems that it is sliding on water. This is why it became famous in western countries during the fourteenth century. Junks are most of the time made out of different compartments inside the hull and some wide sails. The rigging of those boats is the reason why they are so special and it is one of the most popular characteristic of the junk.
The first junks were first created in 3 000 BC and this name that we gave to it is from the Portuguese explorers, they got inspired from the Javanese word « Djong » which was inspired from the initial Cantonese word, « Chuan ». The first junks that europeans discovered was during Marco Polo’s expedition in the XIII century, while his travels into the east. The main differences we can spot between junks are their decorations and interior design. A fishing junk will look alike a merchant junk by its outside aspect but the interior design will be totally different.
The rudder is also something very specific from the junk, it was designed and created for these boats at first, but after traveling to the east, westerners explorers brought it back and started to use it on their boats. Junk’s rudder is also known to have diamond shaped holes inside it, which is also one of the characteristic of the junk. This invention is from China and was created during the first century after JC, the first back rudder that were found in Europe are from the XII century. These boats had a massive role in history because some of the europeans shells design were also inspired from junks and made possible the cross of the Atlantic ocean for Christopher Colombus in 1492.
What are their features ?
Junks in Halong bay are part of the landscape, their presence bring an endless beauty to this place and if they were not here among those floating rocks on water, the place would not be this charming. Nowadays, junks are for tourists, no one live on board as a home, there is no longer merchant ships, and fishers just use their junks for the day and come back on shore after working. There is no longer any business made between junks.
Secret Halong Cruise is a traditional Vietnamese junk even though it includes all the modern confort but its design is similar to the classic ones with the rigging on the deck. The sails are not always out, they are not needed for navigation but just used as a decoration, the crew put them out while the boat is at anchor and when the weather is clear. One of the specific aspect of those sails is that they are wavy and battened, it looks like crumbled cardboard. This structure allows the control of the sail’s surface, their seize are adjustable according to how strong are the winds. The different areas of the sails are independents which is very useful, in any case of tearing, the boat can still navigate. The masts are settle offbeat so the wind can blow through them in a more efficient way.
Junk’s navigation is very smooth, they are sliding on waters which make the travel on board very comfortable and calm. The waves motions are absorbed by the shape of the shell but usually navigation is on flat sea, in case of bad weather they sail away to a peaceful area in a shelter. Halong bay is covered by these junks which became a symbol for this place and the other countries of south east Asia like China or Malaysia where the sea currents are quiet. Junks are also very suitable for any type of cruise in Halong Bay because of their confort and interior design, it is easy to stay for 2 days and one night on boards. That is the usual time of stay while visiting Ha long Bay. Most of the tours include some activities likes fishing, kayaking and some visit of caves like Ho Dong Tien.