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From the Field
Descending the Dragon
Dispatches From the Edge of Vietnam

Explorer Jon Bowermaster is calling in dispatches from his unpredictable, 800-mile (1,287-kilometer) kayak odyssey down the northern Vietnam coast.

The expedition is racing to reach Da Nang before midsummer’s stifling heat hits. To do that, they’re averaging 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers) a day through steamy, monsoon-soaked seas—it’s nothing if not an adventure. But it’s also a National Geographic Society expedition.

From the Chinese border to China Beach, Bowermaster and his four expedition mates are chronicling little-known cultures and corners: floating fishing villages, pirate junks, beachside pagodas, ancient outposts ensnared by the jungle. And they’re taking you along for the voyage.

Bookmark this page and check back often to hear the expedition unfold.

image: map of Vietmam
Click maps to see Bowermaster's route.

THE CREW

Jon Bowermaster
Occupation: Writer-explorer
Age: 45
Base of operations: Stone Ridge, New York

An Adventure contributing editor, Bowermaster has dog-sledded the Antarctic, paddled the Aleutians, and run an untested Chinese river. His work has appeared in National Geographic, The Atlantic, and a new book, Birthplace of the Winds: Storming Alaska’s Islands of Fire and Ice (preview).

Peter Getzels
Occupation: TV producer, National Geographic EXPLORER
Age: 45
Base of operations: Washington, D.C.

A BBC producer until recently, Getzels is on his first staff assignment for EXPLORER.

Ngan Nguyen
Occupation: Asia project manager, Oxfam
Age: 30
Base of operations: Boston, Massachusetts

Born near Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, Nguyen fled Saigon with her family on the last day of the Vietnam War, in 1975. Since then she has studied at Tulane and Harvard University, worked with UNICEF, and visited Vietnam 20 times.

Polly Green
Occupation: Professional kayaker
Age: 30
Base of operations: Durango, Colorado

While Nguyen’s father was flying helicopters for the South Vietnamese Army, Green’s father was based in Da Nang, fighting with U.S. Army troops.

Rob Howard
Occupation: Photographer
Age: 37
Base of operations: New York, New York

The Canadian-born Howard’s work has appeared in Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, and other major magazines.


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Look for Jon Bowermaster’s feature article on kayaking Vietnam in a future issue of Adventure. Subscribe Now!
image: Adventure Cover

Audio

Dispatch 1: Underway (1:01)
“We’re paddling south out of Ha Long city, starting our 800-mile [1,287-kilometer] exploration of the coast of Vietnam.”
LISTEN
RealPlayer 28.8 | 56.6
Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


Dispatch 2: Ha Long Bay (1:13)
“We've paddled in and out of the bay's 3,000 limestone islands, passing through grottos between the islands.”
LISTEN
RealPlayer 28.8 | 56.6
Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


Dispatch 3: Dragon-Boat Races (1:09)
“We’re…in a floating village of 400 boats…It is the 42nd anniversary of the visit of Ho Chi Minh to this town. …They’re having a huge celebration. …”
LISTEN
RealPlayer 28.8 | 56.6
Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


Dispatch 4: Victory's Medicine Man (1:38)
"When we pulled our boats into the tidal mud, a man in a blue zip-up pullover greeted us out of the blue. …He was a traveling herbal medicine man."
LISTEN
RealPlayer 28.8 | 56.6
Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


Dispatch 5: Perfume River (1:22)
"Yesterday we kayaked up the Perfume River into the heart of Hue. …The city is famous in Vietnamese poetry, literature, and music for its mysteriousness and romance."
LISTEN
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Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


Dispatch 6: Lang Co Lagoon (1:44) "A parade of couples in small wooden boats came out in a line spreading their crabnets and settling in for the night. Small gas lamps rested on the seats of their boats. That's all the light they'd need under the stars."
LISTEN
RealPlayer 28.8 | 56.6
Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


Dispatch 7: China Beach (1:10)
"After much bureaucratic hassling, which here means burrowing through multi-layers of police and military folk, we pushed into the South China Sea to paddle the length of Vietnam's historic China Beach."
LISTEN
RealPlayer 28.8 | 56.6
Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


Dispatch 8: Expedition's End (1:43)
"I was drained, maybe more mentally exhausted than physically, thanks to a hard six weeks in a country of complicated logistics. …"
LISTEN
RealPlayer 28.8 | 56.6
Windows Media 28.8 | 56.6


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Windows Media Player


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Related Web Sites

*Ask the Expedition Adviser
Jon Bowermaster fielded reader's questions on planning an out-there adventure.

*Dispatches From the Birthplace of the Winds
See photos and hear dispatches from the expedition that inspired Bowermaster’s new book, Birthplace of the Winds.

*Video: Bowermaster on His Aleutian Odyssey
Find out what it took to take Alaska’s Islands of the Four Mountains by kayak.


More Adventure From nationalgeographic.com

*Adventure & Exploration Guide

*Adventure & Exploration News

*National Geographic Expeditions Travel

*TOPO! mapXchange

*Trails Illustrated Maps


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