Day 126: Hanoi to Halong Bay, Vietnam

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April 2nd 2010
Published: April 9th 2010
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Hanoi to Halong Bay

Day 126: Friday, April 2nd, 2010.
Hanoi to Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Per Intrepid Notes, [i}"Day 8 Halong Bay
Another bus ride takes us to the famous Halong Bay (approx. 4 hours), where we board our private boat and enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch while cruising past some of the 2,000 limestone karsts that dot this World Heritage site. While here, you'll have the opportunity to swim in the bay's emerald waters, explore caves with incredible stalactites and stalagmites as well as enjoy the tranquility of this bay of wonders. Our overnight accommodation on Halong Bay is on a sailing junk with twin bed cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There is also a dining room and bar where we enjoy a sumptuous lunch and dinner."
We left our big bags in the hotel and packed down to smaller bags for our overnight cruise in Halong Bay. We hopped on the bus and Bruno took advantage of Tini being a physical therapist and stretched out in the back for a massage. Evelyn and I were quite amused by his position (feet up on the window) and tried to snap some shots.

We get to Halong Bay and find our boat, the Bien Ngoc 08. We hop on board- we have the ship to ourselves. Of course, i don't think it can hold more than 12 so we shouldn't have been surprised. Susan and I are roomies again and we drop our stuff off in our room and go up to the dining deck for lunch. We had a scrumptious spread of seafood for lunch. I even had some fried squid and liked it! Everyone keeps hopping up while eating to take pictures of the amazing mountains/islands that we are passing. It really is one of the most beautiful places I've been too. I asked Bao how the islands/mountains came to be and he gave us a long story about Dragons. I then, phrasing it delicately, asked what the "other theories were as to how the islands came to be." Translation: What's the real answer. He said that they had been formed under water and then the water receded and there they were. Haven't looked it up so not sure if that's true, but I believe it more than the Dragon dropping them there (hehehe, Dragon droppings.)

After lunch, we hang around on the top deck for a bit and then we get to the Sung Sot Cave. It's about 150 steps to get to the cave and I'm amazed at how my travels have gotten me into better shape. Made it up and was only mildly winded- go me! The cave is massive and with many massive rooms. They have it lit so that you can truly see the details- very beautiful. I guess it's mostly made up of Limestone (just like the islands/mountains all around). Pretty damn cool. We walk around in there for about 30 minutes and then head back to the boat.

The boat moves around to another to cove and docks with a platform where we can rent kayaks. Myself and Bao go in one. Tini and Susan in another. Taylor and Stephanie in the third and Joe and Kathy in the fourth. This is my first time on a kayak and man does it work your arms! Plus, Bao and I couldn't seem to go in a straight line and I'm pretty sure it's due to the fact that I weigh twice as much as him and I was sitting in the front. So, the boat kept trying to do a radius around me. We kayak thru a tunnel and into a beautiful cove where we watch some monkeys play. Unfortunately I didn't have a waterproof camera with me so I was forced to just enjoy the moment and not capture it. Still, wish I had splurged and bought a digital underwater camera for this trip. Oh well. We all take turns grabbing onto the ropes of the kayak in front of us and forcing the others to do all the hard work until they realize what's going on. The best was when Bao grabbed the rope behind Taylor and Stephanie as they went sailing by and we brought them to a standstill. They didn't look back, just started snipping at each other "you're not rowing hard enough, you're rowing on the wrong side", typical couple squabble. Finally they realize it's us, shoot us a not so nice look and Bao let's go. He and I had been roaring with silent laughter thru out and it seems Taylor and Stephanie forgave us so no harm done.

We fight the current and get back to the docking station (so tired) and since we're already cold and wet, we decide to jump off the boat into the water. The water is gorgeous and looks inviting. Joe jumps first and I follow, while being a wimp and holding my nose. However, I make sure I twine my legs around eachother so that I don't do a repeat performance of my last jump. Time for a back story:

One summer in Ithaca, NY, I was living at a frat house at Cornell University (because my friend was president and offered me cheap rent for one of the empty summer rooms). One day, some of the guys and myself decided to go swimming at a lake on campus. We get there and see a bridge and decide we're going to jump off the bridge into the water. We get to the middle of the bridge, look down, and silently all of us say "hell no". It was about a 30-40 foot drop. As we are all slowly backing away, a very cute, very well built guy comes jogging up to me, looks over, and asks if I'm going to jump. I say, "Well, yea!" He says he'll jump with me and we climb onto the railing. He says he'll be mad if he gets to the bottom and I'm not there and I assure him I'm jumping. I'm picturing our children, and they will be beautiful. We jump, and I scream the whole way down so that by the time I hit the water, I have no oxygen left in my lungs. Plus, I flinched at the last second and ended up doing a cannonball into the water and that water slapped the hell out of my ass and back of my legs. So, I surface, take a gasp of air and instantly start swearing like only Lents women can do. The guy helps me to the side of the lake (I know my legs are moving but I really can't feel them), he hands me off to the frat guys and swims off after saying he had to go find his wife. Son of a !!!! So, the guys help me back to the frat house and the next day I go to the doctor where he expresses concern for the amount of blood vessels that I have broken on my ass and on the back of my legs. They were literally dark purple. He said that if the blood didn't drain/absorb back into my body he'd have to drain it. Lovely. So, I spent the next 3 days with my ass propped up in the air in a fraternity living room. Good times. Good times.

Back to the now, so I did better on this jump- but it was only 1/3 (if that) of my first jump. Still, maybe I can work up the courage to do a big girl jump again someday- and this time, the right way! Most of us jump in the water and splash around for about 5 minutes (it was pretty friggin cold). We try to do some synchronized swimming poses for those that are on deck taking pictures of us and then we call it quits. Water is very limited so we all take quick 3 minute showers and come back up for dinner where it's another amazing course of seafood. Afterwards, myself, Susan, Tini, Stephanie and Taylor play some cards (a game Tini taught us) and we end up staying up 5 minutes later than "the older crowd"- a first for this trip! Of course, we were all in bed by 10 pm, so they still get to claim the title of party animals.

Additional photos below
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Boats lining up in Halong Bay.Boats lining up in Halong Bay.
Boats lining up in Halong Bay.

They said about 300 of these depart each day.

18th May 2010

You decided to open a burger joint in Vietnam called Dragon Droppings?
You're on a junk!

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