And finally, the Vietnam trip was closed by my major agenda, visiting Halong Bay. That morning, on my second day in Hanoi, I was picked up by a minivan sent by the travel agent where I booked 2d1n tour. After picking up the other tourists I some hotel, the minivan left Hanoi to the harbor.
I was in the same minivan with some Chinese look tourist sat beside me, Latin tourists behind me, and one couple with their little baby right in front of me. At the beginning, everybody was busy with their group and never chatted to another. But this would change when on the ship, where we would spend almost two days.
As arrived at the harbor, we waited for a while until the tour guide led us to get into the harbor gate. Along with a group of Australian, led by the tour guide, we walked to the ship which was docking. The crew helped all the passengers to bring the baggage, while the tour guide asked us to gather in the dining room. Glasses of welcome drink were served on the tables and we started to tag some table. I who came there alone sat with a Vietnamese guy (I forgot the name) and the French couple (Sylvain, Marylin and little Emma).
After giving welcoming speech the tour guide (TG) explained our two days itinerary. TG said on the first day we would sail along the bay which is surrounded by limestone islands, sneak inside giant cave at Bo Hon island—the main island, and do kayaking near Bo Hon. Then, TG called us one by one to hand our room keys. I got the room behind the dining room, right next to the Vietnamese.
Marylin, Emma and Sylvain
At the first time, I didn’t expect too much about my room because I never did such live on board tour before. But when I entered the room, I was sort of amazed. That tiny room looked so comfy and clean, facilitated with air conditioner and water heated bathroom. On the bed, there lied down towels which were folded like sweet couple of geese.
I straightly took shower and changed my closed. There was still enough time to have a rest, I then took a nap while charging my electronic gadgets. Not a while after that, somebody knocked my door and informed me that the lunch was ready. I took my camera out of the bag to take some picture, just in case. I left my room and joined the other in dining room.
Sylvain and Marylin sat with the Latin, while I and the Vietnamese were told to sat with the Malaysian family. When waiting for the tables then were filled with variant Vietnamese traditional food, the South East Asian table were having a warm conversation, introducing each other and sharing experiences. From the Malaysian family, I found out that they are family who lives separately one and another. Mom and dad live in Kuching, the daughter works in Kuala Lumpur and grandpa lives in Singapore.
All meals were completely served and we stopped talking to enjoy our lunch. When in the middle of our lunch, suddenly I could see the scenery outside the window was covered with greeny hills. From the corner of the dining room, TG smiled and said, “Welcome to Halong Bay”.
Spontaneously, 80% of the passengers were spread out of the dining room and bringing their camera—including me. We were all glued to admire the limestone islands which are stretched at the bay. Each limestone islands from the nearest to the farthest one create such a beautiful green gradation. The light mist which covering some island also tried to beautify its mythical effect. The dark green waters reflected the island color, while refracting the sunlight that shining brightly on that day.
After taking some photos, we got back into the dining room. The Malaysian family was still there and sat calmly. They prefer to finish their meals and enjoy the island later, they said. I continued to finish my lunch time and then went to the upper deck with the other, having another Halong Bay sightseeing session.
At the upper deck, there were prepared some easy chairs for anyone who wants to relax. Some Australian tourists have arrived first and tagged the chairs, so have Sylvain and his family. Not long after that, Malaysian family and some Latin tourists—that I had just know were from Mexico and Chile—joined. That was the first time when all of us were blended into a warm conversation.
The Australians told us that they had just been from HCMC and became so stress every time they had to traverse the street. They also shared how they loved to sit in the café at corner of Pham Ngu Lao St and enjoyed the traffic after office hour. Some other tourists who also experienced that then shared their experiences in other point of view.
Vaguely, we saw a harbor and some ships in the distance. TG suddenly came up and gave some instruction. We were about to arrive in Bo Hon island, where we would do a short trekking. He warned us to remain in group always because there would be a lot of people in the island.
The ship docked. TG led us to walk to the cave entrance. For a while, in front of a big board with pictures of seven Natural Wonders, TG explained that it was so prideful to have Halong Bay as one of the world Natural Wonders. Halong Bay derives from local language Vinh Ha Long which means the bay where the dragon descended. As the legend told, long-long time ago the god emperor sent a dragon and its baby to the earth to protect Vietnam from enemy’s attack. The dragon released some pearls from its mouth and the pearls turned into the limestone islands around the bay as country’s shield. Inevitably, enemy’s ship hit those shields and Vietnam was survived the attack.
We got into Bo Hon entrance, showed the tickets given by TG and climbed up the stairs to get into Sung Sot cave. From the top of the island, we could see how breath taking Halong Bay scenery was. As its name, Sung Sot cave (shocking cave) was indeed shocking. If at the first time, we’d only greeted by a small cave with some stalagmite and stalactite incredibly frozen, the more we got inside, our eyes were widely opened to see the vast and spacious cave. Lighted by golden yellow lamps, the cave’s room looked so great and magnificent, just like a golden cave. We walked through the cave which path away had been set so trekking friendly. The stairs were properly shelved, so we were not so tired when climbing it up and down. Barrier poles were planted there as a trekking guide.
Personally, for me this trekking friendly cave has its plus and minus. The easiness when walking through the cave makes people feel comfort. But in the other side, its originality becomes a little bit faded. I just felt like visiting natural rocks museum rather than doing a trekking. Those lighting even makes the Sung Sot cave becomes a natural stone sculpture exhibition arena.
Almost an hour we spent inside the Sung Sot cave, our trip ended at the mouth of the cave on the other side. We then went down the stairs and walked out toward the Kayaking spot near the ship docked. My kayaking partner was the Vietnam (since we were the only solo traveler). After choosing the life vest, we jumped into a kayak and row the kayak around. Enjoying Halong Bay from the kayak gave a different sensation than from the ship. I really felt so tiny among large rocks around us.
Latin friends (The photos were taken by Oscar, my Latino friend)
After we were so tired rowing the kayak, we returned to the dock, gave back the life vest and got into the ship. Everyone came in to their room and rested until the dinner time. Awakened by a knock on the door and dinner call, I wash my face and then came out to join the others. This evening I sat down with the Vietnamese and the French family to enjoy our dinner.
In an hour, we finished our meals. I joined the Australian family, Sylvain and Marylin for beer time. The Malaysian family went to the upper deck, mean while the Latin friends enjoyed their karaoke time. That was our first and last night and that was the time when I felt a stronger closeness to every passengers. We made a lot of jokes, we shared a lot more stories, and we were bound tighter as if we weren’t just met this day.
While enjoying every sip of beer inside the can, tha night was closed with sudden Salsa attraction by the Latin friends
In the very early morning, I could hear the rain outside the window of my room. Too lazy to get up because the room was so cold, I was curled up comfortably inside the warm blankets. But considering it was the last day, so I forced myself to get up and shower. Once getting out of the room, I found some Australian friends had filled one of the tables. With a smile, I came out of the dining room for a moment to enjoy Halong Bay rainy and foggy morning.
Thank God, rain fell down today. I wonder what would happen if rain fell yesterday. I believe that we will all lose our mood. According to TG, all limestone islands will just remain mounds of dark shadow which were covered by shrouding. The gray clouds also hang on the gloomy sky.
After all the passengers were completely gathered in the dining room, TG announced, that was the last day and we would go back to Halong city harbor. But before heading there, TG and some crews will hold a Spring Rolls making session near the lunch time. Here, the guests will be taught to make the Spring Rolls and practice it in front of the other.
While waiting for the class began, I took some pictures of the groups that become my new friends on the ship recently. And the funny part is, all the passengers suddenly took out their camera too.
Friends from Australia
Friends from Mexico and Chile
Class then started, all were welcomed to approach the table in the middle of the dining room. On the table I could see the rice paper, minced beef that has been cooked and seasoned, sliced notes/?v=20130816#https://sayaminggatdulu.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2763&action=edit
By the end of the class and the lunch, our tour was officially ended. The boat took us back to the dock and we shook hands, hugged each other and said goodbye to each other. Not so sure when we will be meeting again, the point is, this trip obviously gave a deep emotional impression. In just one day, the whole ship was bound together as a family. Gonna miss you all, gorgeous guys!
Ps. Read also Komodo, My First Seven Wonders of Nature