Inside Thein Cung grotto cave
.....Take My Hand & Come With Me.
Ha Long means descending dragon, which came when the Chinese fought the Vietnamese and the Gods sent the Vietnamese a family of dragons otherwise known as Lac the Dragon Lord and Au Co a mountain fairy. They huffed and puffed the Chinese away from these territories by breath of furious fire then pelted them with jade and pearls; this great event was apparently witnessed in 1892 by a single Frenchman captain who by chance was sailing these waters at the time. There are 1969 karst Islets in the bay which stand strong but alone, James Bond's Tomorrow Never Dies was filmed here, some of these Islets have names such as 'the teapot and two cups rock', 'fighting cock rock' 'frogging rock' and the 'kissing rock' 'the most romantic bay in the world'.
The heat was blistering hot, which was very bad news for my Sapa trekking moto leg burn, instead of starting to scab over it wept buckets and peeled chunks, not great. We boarded a small boat, along with 250 litre barrels of diesel which we were told would keep us in electricity, karaoke and freezing cold air for one whole
One leap of faith
Bryan enjoying his flip of a coin.
night. We transferred to a small ship, these wooden sailing ships are called Junks that support huge sails and decorative flagged masts, the mini red flags are meant to bring good luck to those on board. Our Junk was called 'The Phoenix' and was to be our home for (option 3) of three whole days and two whole nights. In the dining deck I sat back against the comfy silk cushions, rocking in time with the teak, breathing in calmness as I sipped iced drinks, kicked back and read my book 'Life of Pi' which no one told me was about a boat that sinks!
The curious others on board were looking around, nodding happily to each other, we were all thankful we didn't take the $46 option. The whole Junk deal cost us $140 including transfers, three massive yummy meals a day, karaoke & kayaking, private cabins that were so cosy with bathrooms that were clean, functional, pure perfection.
The afternoon brought us to Thein Cung Grotto, inside this cave brought body temperatures down to a more regular heat, the stalagmites and stalactites were lit with coloured halogen lights giving that Planet Clangers feel, a Korean family
My Shadow Self.
pretended to be The Munster in front of the spot light of an alcove, a old French man slipped over the damp smooth rocks, luckily he sustained no serious injuries but caused much personal fuss, the parents of a young Swiss family of six kids had archaeological, geological, biological, anthropological, ecological, mythological discussions between each other, I was mighty impressed and ear wigged as best I could. Ha Long bay has a 20 million year tectonic limestone history, but it was also the deepest sea in the world some 500 million years ago to the shallowest sea in the world some 5 minutes ago, but they all agreed it was the eighth wonder of this world, the Swiss certainly know a lot of stuff. It was not long before the boat ladies rowed up beside our Junk with a complete corner shop of wares to offer, bottles of cheap wine, beers, vodka, fags of every brand, sweets, chewy, cakes you name it, all tagged with that well versed phrase.....
'YOU BUY FROM ME?'
But what you may not know is these boat sellers tell the ships staff who bought what and the ship then adds a surcharge
to your final bar bill, $5 for wine, vodka, $1 for soft drinks which is really cheeky as this money goes to Mr. Fat Cat back in his mansion in the Bahamas
As the blazing sun set, our new friends jumped from the top level of the Junk in too deep jellyfish infested green seas. I opted to take jumping pictures, pointing to my moto burn that continued to Ooze yellow puss. Many old Junks docked nearby, anchors had settled in to the bay's deep sandy bed for the night, white rice wine and fresh fruit were served on silver trays, many jelly fish stings soon emerged and shown off, much laughter could be heard for miles around along with row, row splash....'You promised you buy from me Oreos, wine, Choco pies' which are yummy & just like mini wagon wheels. I put my new specially made Sainsbury’s special collection Vietnamese rip off best dress on and dinner was served in the dining deck at 7.30, where we got to know our fellow ship mates. Plates of Vietnamese food kept appearing, these plates of deliciousness disappeared fast washed down with Test Tube Baby cocktails, tequila, kahlua and some lactose
milk expressed from far off mountain mama tribes.
The 250 litres of diesel certainly fuelled the karaoke machine as the music flowed as freely as the wine and the chilled Air con air, classic Billy Joel 'Piano Man' was sung by mighty men, then wonder wall, the boxer, the gambler, YMCA, daddy cool, American pie, money money money, Zombie by anyone who was game for a laugh. The air was humid and the lights from all the Junks twinkled and bounced off the water linking together across the bay like a string of Christmas lights, the loud echoes of an enviable accapella version of Bohemian Rhapsody could be heard rolling around the bay from four Junks away.
We certainly didn't forget it the next morning, zombie's a go go, as I opened my cabin door to a wonderful sunrise and a splitting head, a corner shop terrorist was already floating her convenience shop boat next to the Junk and chanting 'Lady, Choco pies?' Breakfast was called at 7.30 luckily the bay is calm and not choppy or not much eating and much more vomiting may have occurred, after breakfast was followed by a small trip on a smaller
boat that took us around the bay to embark on a head splitting time in a two man Kayak that we rowed mainly upstream while managing a serious hangover.
Kayaking is the tourist past time of choice, with many interesting caves and great rocks to paddle around. But during the early morning the tides are low, barnacles and clam shells decorated rocks and bottoms of boats like pebble dashed council houses and when the tide was low in the early mornings the kayaking boats have a habit of running a ground. Inside this one strange lagoon area a single syringe floated past us in the frothing fizzing waters, I had run a ground. Long our guide braved the ankle deep infested waters and dragged our kayak back up stream to knee deep safety; he cut his foot on sharp shells while saving our lives. But then we had to go further back up stream as the tide was coming in through a fierce cave tunnel, I lost control of the boat many times, so near to the other side where the rapids mouth spurted out more torrent, but then I was swept back to where I first started.
Lunch on the little boat was delightful, gentle classical music played and hand prepared cuisines were made from scratch by the captain and his two sons. After lunch us zombies on board found a space to curl up and have a snooze, I was resting at the bow end which slanted a lot, as I drifted off to sleep through heavy eyes I could see the sea gently lapping around me between four giant islets ahead, peaceful and calm. I could hear an assortment of Christmas carols being played even though it was only May; I soon snoozed off to the tinkle karaoke based sounds of Silent Night. I awoke one hour later when I felt myself slipping and dribble had seeped into my right ear giving me partial loss of hearing. We moved off to another cave, and then the captain showed us his impressive pearl collection. They farm oyster shells and fine pearls here, the ancient myths of pearl and jade spitting dragons are said to have left the pearl seed for them to harvest and make some cash from. To tell if a pearl is real you set light to it with a lighter, it won’t go
black or melt. I just loved this whole time here in Ha Long Bay.
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