A week had gone by since our adventure began in Vietnam. We spent a couple of days flying and travelling, but the majority of our time was spent in Hanoi. We saw so much, experienced even more and met some great people. However, it was time to move on. We were heading to Halong Bay by bus and exploring the bay by boat.
The bus journey took about 3-4 hours but, as I usually do, I slept for most of it. We stopped half way so we could use the toilets and so the tour operators can get some commission. This “shop” sold anything from snacks to snakes in a jar. After 20 minutes, we hopped back on the bus to finish the journey. Sat behind us were three loud and proud Australians – they were going to be a lot of fun. Out of the window we saw lots of fields and rice farms, and mountains in the distance. Also along the way we saw, the occasional village with thin but tall homes. These are built so the owners can pay less tax. Eventually we could see the ocean – that’s when we really got excited.
When we arrived, we were kind-of-corralled into a small room. I guess this was so they could finish prepping the boat. First, we got on a small boat. That took us to our big boat. Some of the boats in the harbour looked like they were falling apart, but ours did not. On the boat were tables, chairs and a bar, as well as our private, double cabins with a toilet and shower in each. On the top deck of the boat were plenty of deck chairs and table football.
After our tour guide ran us through the itinerary, we began our voyage through the UNESCO World Heritage Site. We watched as we passed caves and coves, as well as isolated homes for fishermen and their families. With thousands of towering islands, you are immediately in awe of the place. This paradise is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The limestone islands are covered in greenery (going hand in hand with the emerald green waters), and are home to many different animals including monkeys, lizards and antelopes. I’m pretty sure I saw a pig.
We spent most of the journey admiring the view from the top deck of the boat. After a short while, we were gathered into the dining area for a large buffet. Thankfully, they didn’t just serve seafood and my vegetarian diet was well catered for. After eating our bodyweight, it was time to go kayaking. Our small boat (that is towed in tandem) took us around the corner of one of the limestone karsts where the kayaks were waiting for us.
Harmony and I grabbed a paddle each and climbed onto our kayak. We were last to get a kayak, and we were happy with what we were given, but we had some catching up to do. It wasn’t hard to be honest. People were going around in circles and one Israeli guy, Avi, was trying to climb his way into a cave. He saw what he needed to see, jumped back in the water and started swimming along behind us. He seemed pretty happy when we offered him a lift though, and Harmony seemed happy when he climbed aboard as she could rest and he could take over.
The tide must’ve been going out as it took some serious strength and effort to fight our way through a small canyon where the water was flowing out fast. However, it was no match for Avi and I in the end. On the other side of the canyon, we found ourselves in a peaceful pool, completely surrounded by the limestone cliffs. They were really towering over us now. In this moment, something clicked. I thought to myself that this must be one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. Top five for sure.
I still didn’t know anything about Halong Bay. Thankfully, the tour guide was on hand and would finally do… Well… His job. He explained a bit about the many islands and told us that, legend has it, Halong Bay was created by dragons a long time ago. They spat out jewels and jade in the bay – creating a massive wall to protect the Vietnamese from the Chinese… Or something like that. I just couldn’t get over the scenery that surrounded me.
The kayaking continued as Harmony and I raced everyone back to the boat. We won. When everyone got back to the boat, we were aloud to enjoy the water and jump off the top of the boat. It wasn't cliff jumping, but it was still thrilling.
Our time was up when the sun started to set. Now was the time for me to start taking photos. I was dreading that the hazy clouds on the horizon would inhibit a colourful sky, but it was amazing! Oranges, reds and pinks - the sky was beautiful. The boat started sailing and we were given something new to look at every second.
In the meantime, a delicious buffet was being prepared for us. When the food was ready, we congregated in the dining area. Then, the dining area turned into the drinking area. Some people played beer pong, some people played ring of fire (or as the Australians liked to call it; King's Cup) and some people just drank. It really was a party boat.
Everyone slowly moved outside and, thankfully, nobody fell overboard. We listened to good music and had good conversations. Lightning could be seen in the distance, but it didn't rain on us once. You might think that all of the other boats would spoil a place this magnificent, but the flickering lights in the distance made it that much more special.
Morning came and we had to check out of our rooms. Then, we enjoyed some sun on the top deck of the boat until it was time for a cooking class. In my opinion, a cooking class was a great way to fill the time it took to arrive back at the harbour. We made our very own spring rolls and ate them (amongst other things) for lunch. That was with a new group of people who were joining us on the journey back to Hanoi. Our group from the night before were staying for another day and, sadly, we were not. Our jealousy didn't take away from the fact that we were really going to miss them!
The boat eventually arrived back at the harbour and the long wait for a bus back to Hanoi had begun. The bus took five hours and made the same stop as it did on the way to Halong Bay. There was a fair bit of traffic, but we made it back to Hanoi just in time for our bus from Hanoi to Hue!