By Adahli Trejo, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

Upon arriving in Vietnam, the words Ha Long Bay were being tossed left and right around the ship. It seemed that everyone knew of this place and many planned on making the journey to the north of Vietnam in order to experience the beautiful Vietnamese scenery. I found it a little funny to me that so many people would be leaving the MV World Odyssey just to go aboard another ship. Nevertheless, I packed up my belongings and made the trip with three other friends. After three hours of flying and five hours of driving, we finally made it.

Our tour guide explained to us how Ha Long Bay was originally used by the colonizers purely for profit. Now, it is largely used for tourism purposes. The boat that we boarded was one of dozens that dotted the waters of the bay. From what I saw, all of the employees were local Vietnamese people managing the entire industry, which leads me to believe that they are benefiting largely from the employment opportunities.

As we sailed around the Bay, I noticed that there was an immense amount of waste being produced by the tug boats as well as the visiting tourists. The water was entirely polluted by oil and had an unnatural texture to it. There were also many pieces of plastic and other trash floating in the water. I don’t believe that this tourist attraction is environmentally sustainable.

There are far too many people and far too many boats in this small area for it to be maintained cleanly. I feel that although the scenery is very beautiful, the pollution will begin to deter people from visiting in the long run. I don’t believe that very many people will be inclined to visit a place that is cluttered with waste. I wonder how the Vietnamese will manage the accumulated waste and what measures they will take to sustainably maintain it?