Much like the beauty of the Limestone Mountains in Vang Vieng, Laos, the beauty of Ha Long Bay can simply not be described. So I’ll describe the boat and ride and post some pictures instead.
We arrived at the ferry docks the day of our tour and got on the boat after only a little waiting, just enough time to buy and drink an overpriced, harsh tasting tourist coffee.
The boat we ended up on was quite beautiful, complete with “VIP” written on the side. We felt special. Not to mention after a couple days’ talks with other people on the boat, we still paid less. Awesome
Our guide spoke incredible English and explained exactly what it was that we were going to be doing in the next couple hours, so we all sat back and got to know each other while we eagerly awaited lunch to be served. I don’t know how we do it, but everywhere we go, Melisa and I always find the Canadians. So we end up on a boat with three Canadians teaching at the Canadian International English School in Beijing, a couple Newfies and an Australian girl who also has Canadian Citizenship who may be doing a year at U of T next year. (Her uncle also works at York) That’s 8 out of 16 people that have Canadian roots, all on one boat. It IS a small world after all.
So we spent most of the first day dumbstruck at the beauty of everything around us, and take a hike through a couple caves. One was the Surprise Cave and the other was the Bo Nau Grotto. Both were beautiful, the first was discovered only about 5 years ago and some of the stalactites and stalagmites have been recognized as animals, the image of Buddha, and even shadows of Romeo and Juliet. The exit has a place for any other discoveries that people may notice in the shapes of the rock formation.
The second cave was home to the Vietnamese army, where they would hide out when they were sharpening their weapons in preparation against the Mongolians. Our guide explained that when they enticed them into battle, they would hide out in the cave and wait for the water to recede; causing the Mongolian boats to be impaled by all the rock, and planted steel tipped spears, under the water. Walking through, I could almost feel myself walking back in time watching the commander and all his men plotting their battle win.
After seeing the caves we waited on the pier for our boat to come around and pick us up, it’s at this point that there is a serious boat traffic jam and our boat crashes into the side of another boat. No big deal all the crew claim and help us all onto the boat. At this point, we all start to notice the dents and broken sides of our boat and all the other boats around us. Turns out those boat drivers in Ha Long Bay are just as careless as motorcycle drivers in Hanoi.
My only regret about our tour of Ha Long was that it wasn’t warmer so we could sunbathe while watching all those amazing rock formations slowly move past as we cruised through the bay, I’m sure that there would have been more activity in the fishing villages and that we may have been able to see the fisherman at work. Although at one point, our giant junk boat got caught up in the line of a tiny little boat and pulled them almost a kilometer before the crew recognized their frantic screaming and stopped to allow them to untangle themselves.
Despite the cold we got into Kayaks and steered ourselves through a mountain tunnel that I am absolutely in love with, and around the bay. Later some of the people in the group went swimming, despite the frigid temperatures outside and the fact that everyone else was wearing double pants, double sweaters and scarves. (Turns out we weren’t the only ones completely unprepared for the cold weather.)
All in all it was a great three days away from the city, and despite the frigid weather and wind keeping us inside the cabin, we made the best of it.
And no, the Aussie children were not on our boat! I think the lady we booked with hooked that up after we told her that we weren’t actually friends with them.
“In the end its not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away”