Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
I woke up this morning and was ready downstairs in the hotel lobby, eagerly awaiting my trip to Ha Long Bay today; the bus was scheduled to pick me up at 08:30, but of course it didn’t arrive until 09:00 (“you know . . . it’s Asia”); while waiting, I chatted with the hotel receptionist who thought that I looked like a combination of his two favorite American actors (Kevin Costner (where the receptionist got his Anglicized name from) and Nicholas Cage), I just laughed and figured we all look alike to him. The bus finally arrived and I boarded the vehicle; we then picked up two Thai girls before setting out for Ha Long Bay, which is located in the Gulf of Tonkin and is about three hours away from Hanoi. Along the way we stopped at a rest stop with many souvenirs for tourists to purchase and some food. At about 12:00, we reached the marina and, after receiving our tickets from our tour guide, we boarded the boat that would take us around the bay for the day; once on the boat, we waited for some more tour groups to join us before the engines revved up and we were on our way.
Once under way, lunch was served for all the passengers and we had a large meal of boiled clams, seasoned fish, fried eggs, spring rolls, steamed vegetables, a fatty-meat dish, steamed rice, and watermelon (for dessert). Once lunch had been consumed, we neared the islands in the bay. We traveled past a cluster of islands and onward to some floating platforms (there was also a small schoolhouse floating nearby for the local children who live in the bay either in floating villages or boats). We docked our boat at the floating platforms and we then disembarked; we were given the choice to ride on small boats with a rower at the stern or to go off on our own in a kayak; I opted to be a passenger on one of the small boats; so I paid the fee, put on a flotation vest, and climbed aboard just as it began to rain; two of the passengers were given umbrellas to hold over all of us (this was not very effective, but luckily it was not raining very hard); we then traveled to one of the islands and passed through a cave to reach the lagoon inside; our driver then took us back through the cave and on to another one where we went inside another lagoon; then we rowed back to the floating dock. Once docked, I walked back to our tour boat and waited for the other passengers to finish their adventures. When every one was back on board the tour boat, we traveled to our next destination on the itinerary – a famous rock formation named the “Kissing Cocks”, which looks sort of like roosters kissing each other (depending on the angle); this rock formation is also depicted on Vietnam’s currency.
After stopping near the “Kissing Cocks”, we then circled around Thien Cung Island before coming to a dock located next to Thien Cung Grotto; we disembarked the boat and our tour guide took us through the cave; the cavern had a large room with many rock formations (there was the stone elephant, as usual), colorful electric lighting to illuminate the rock formations, and two openings at one point of the cave where the sun was shining through; the cave was also wet and the ceiling was dripping water everywhere. We walked through the grotto and came out another exit; from there, we walked down to another dock (adjacent to the one we arrived at) and then boarded our ship which was waiting there for us. The boat then traveled back to the marina, passing by many, many tour boats docked nearby. We then docked and disembarked; our bus came and picked us up, and we then traveled back to Hanoi; along the way we stopped at another rest stop that had even more art and crafts for tourists to buy (some of it looked quite nice and I believe it is all handmade) before continuing on. Upon reaching Hanoi, the bus dropped all the passengers off at their respective hotels (or within five minutes walking time); I was the last one to get dropped off at my hotel and I then walked upstairs, typed out some journal entries, and then walked back downstairs to pay for my time spent at the hotel. I then walked to a nearby restaurant and ordered a barbeque chicken pizza to go (the slices were cut up and stacked inside two small styrofoam containers); I walked back up to my hotel room and ate my dinner while watching television and updating the website. I then went to sleep.