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January 27, 2004

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Halong Bay, the Gulf of Tonkin, important waters for commerce and defense. In waters on this side of Asia, the battle ocurred that brought America into direct conflict with Vietnam. In two incidents, American ships claimed to have been attacked. In response, America started bombing and officially entered the Vietnam War. Vietnamese soldiers stored weapons, supplies, and hid from bombs in harbor caves. North of here, in a different war, Vietnamese soldiers defeated the Chinese in the late 1970's. Most historians recognize Vietnam as winning that war too. The two countries closed their shared border until 1990, when relations resumed. Even today, paranoia that American or Chinese conflict might return affects a local tourist brochure. It reads: "The people of the Haiphong region spare no effort to have a modern port city with developed industry and agriculture and a centre of import and export, tourism and attendance and at the same time an iron fortress against invasion." Whew!
Emerald waters, steep rock formations, caves, beaches, and grottos turn Halong Bay into a magical place.
In summertime tourists swim around the islands. Cold keeps us out of the water. The harbors lay still and deserted.