When people think of Vietnam, I am pretty sure that Ha Long Bay is one of those images that explodes into the brain. Before my trip fades from memory, I think I should put down a few words and share some of the amazing pictures I took.
We got to Hanoi by overnight train just before dawn. The journey had been a difficult one, made more difficult by copious amounts of alcohol consumed and a climb down from the top bunk when nature called. My belly was full of pizza delivered to the station and my ears full from conversations with my bunk mates. I had managed to sleep a little and managed to catch some of the night scenery on those rocking and rolling nature breaks.
We went to our eventual hotel to have breakfast and store our bags. I was lucky enough to snag the newspaper while enjoying my coffee, omelette, fruit, yogurt and of course my morning flan (crème caramelle the Europeans called it).
Our bus ride through the old quarter of Hanoi out to the road to Ha Long Bay was early enough to be less busy than some of our other morning rides. The scenery was pleasant and oddly warm and inviting. If I lived there, I wondered if I could have found a breakfast home amongst these somewhat impromptu kitchens. Banh Mi and delicious Vietnamese coffee every morning seems like such a great idea.
Approaching Ha Long Bay after several hours, it seemed like our journey was coming to an end, even though there were a couple of days to go. Perhaps it had been the end of the cycling, perhaps it had been the gruelling bus ride, or perhaps it had been the building up to the crest of the highest rise on the roller coaster. I don’t know.
We got on a skiff that took us to our overnight boat. We got our luggage stowed in our rooms and proceeded to have lunch. At the same time the boat started to move out of the bay and into what can only be described as otherworldly beautiful.
You’ve all seen the pictures, but nothing is the same as actually being there. The sky was overcast, and many said it would have looked even more spectacular with the sun shining. While I can’t argue with them, I think that you take nature how it presents itself. On that grey day, I was sure I was being embraced by nature. I felt humbled and awed. I felt so young.
There are reasons why UNESCO designated this area as a treasure or wonder of the world…or whatever they designated it as. It is just one of those “duh?” moments. One quick look would have told me that.
All of us snapped many pictures and I am sure that many will be better than mine. Some people experimented with black and white. Some tried for panorama shots. I am no Ansell Adams, but I hope you enjoy my pictures nonetheless. I hope my pictures can convey some of what I felt. Perhaps they will inspire you to go an see it yourself.
We also managed to visit a huge cave complex that was large enough to hold the super bowl in. Sadly this was very overrun by tourists and tour boats, but even that couldn’t mar the fascinating scene. It was just too large and overpowering.
The night featured a superb meal and some of my tour mates dancing to 80’s disco. They asked me to join them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I regret it now of course, but sometimes you are just not that unreserved. They were having such a fantastic and unselfconscious time. Perhaps I should have drunk more with dinner.
Our ride back the next morning presented us with Ha Long Bay with early morning fog. It wasn’t as overcast and the limestone islands looked fantastic. I could have spent weeks on that boat.
It didn’t hurt that there breakfast coffee was the most delicious coffee I have ever had in my entire life. Seriously. If this were available in Canada….oh I shudder to think how much I would drink.