"Ha Long Bay, situated in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1600 islands and islets forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and relatively unaffected by human influence."
On our second Day in Vietnam, our guide picked us up bright and early for our 4 hour drive from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. It's actually only a 125 km drive but with the 40-70 km speed limits and the crazy driving, it takes 4 hours (including a bathroom stop at a tourist trap) to reach Halong City.
I am not usually great in the backseat of cars/vans (oh alright, most moving vehicles) but I did pretty well on this trip. While we were driving out of Hanoi, Neil had suggested that I take some photos of the scenery out the car windows.
Um...yeah, I wasn't that good. So, I handed him the camera so he could start snapping pictures of the crazy traffic and various things of interest. What amazed me most was the motorcycles. Not just how many there were, and there were a lot, but what they could pack onto one. It was shocking! I'll post later with more about Hanoi and the motorcycles.
Seriously, I could do a whole series on what the Vietnamese can load on a bike. OK, don't panic, I'll spare you...but I just want you to know, I definitely could. ;D
Anyway, after arriving in Ha Long City and boarding the junk, we were served a welcome drink, met the crew and were given some time to relax and explore out the ship before lunch was served. The cabins, while small, were very comfortable and each had it's own bathroom with a shower. We later found that the water pressure was quite low, so we held off trying to actually use the shower and opted to wait until we arrived back at the hotel the next evening.
So, that means horrible hair...hence why you won't be seeing many photos of me...if any ;D
After lunch, the junk had arrived at their private island where it anchored so we could go ashore to swim, kayak, and explore the island and it's cave. This was the part of the trip I knew the boys were going to love, and I was right.
The cave was cool, but the boys were quickly through with it and were headed for the kayaks. Neil was a saint and let me just ride along in front with my camera while he did all the paddling.
I love that man.
We spent a long time kayaking and I took tons of photos. This was, in fact, more difficult that I had anticipated. Our kayak moving added to the boys constantly moving and being on open water equaled many blurry photos.
I had promised myself and Neil that I would not be obnoxious with the camera on this trip and I thought I was doing pretty well. I'm going to assume, though, that I was "tisk-ing" to myself when I missed shots because, every so often, he would start paddling backwards so the boys would come back into frame.
Let me just reiterate how much I love that man. Nobody else on this planet would humor me like that.
Kayaking was Sam's favorite part of the whole day and he stayed out on the water for as long as he could. Jacob and Zach headed back to the island earlier to hunt for animals in the shoreline. Jacob has an uncanny ability to find things and this day was no exception. He found two beautiful starfish and an octopus. When Neil and I got back to the island, he borrowed the little video camera to take underwater shots of it. It's no wonder that this was Jacob's favorite part.
An octopus! Really!
Because we were the only family on our junk, we were not forced to keep the schedule of the other groups. While most of the other families had already boarded their zodiacs to head back to their junks, we were still goofing off on the island. When we finally did go back, Zach had asked if he was allowed to jump off the junk a few times.
Normally, this isn't allowed but since it was just us, the crew said yes. So, Zach and Jacob took turns jumping off the deck until they got too cold to continue. When the boys gave up on the frigid water and came aboard the last time, we set off for our overnight location to drop anchor.
The other half of Jacob's favorite part of the trip came after dinner; the crew let the boys fish for squid off the side of the boat. I never got a firm count of how many they caught but it was several and all but one were tossed back to live another day. The one poor squid that didn't go back became a late night snack for one of the crew.
The next morning the junk headed to a local fishing village out in the middle of the bay before taking us back to the port in Ha Long City. While the boys didn't find the village nearly as exciting as the day before, it was still pretty spectacular. I took a ton of photos and, if you are interested, you can find them here.
I thought Ha Long Bay was truly phenomenal and according to the latest vote at New 7 Wonders of Nature, I'm not alone in that opinion. Of all the things we did on our trip to Vietnam, our overnight cruise on the junk was by far our favorite. As we were heading back to the port, we were sitting on the top deck so we could enjoy the scenery. There were enormous limestone mountains jutting out of the calm emerald colored water for as far as the eye could see.
You know when you want to just sit and soak something in because it's just so amazing that's really all you can do? Just soak it in? That's how I felt. We didn't have the best weather while we were there and the sky was overcast and hazy the whole time but even in perfect conditions, I don't think I could have taken a photo that would have done Ha Long Bay justice.
You just have to see it for yourself some day.
Until next time!
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