Our cruise was cancelled, but the company sent us to Hoa Lu & Tam Co and scheduled us for a day trip to Halong Bay the following day weather permitting. This time the weather cooperated. It rained a little and was overcast, but the coolest temperatures we have experienced since arriving in SE Asia, mid 80’s with humidity of course.
The only downside of seeing Halong Bay in one day is the 3 hour bus ride. But, hey it was a nice opportunity to take a nap. D since I have known him can sleep in any mode of public transportation. Before the plane taxis out to the runway he is asleep, not the greatest conversationalist travel companion, but I envy that readiness to sleep. This trip so far has allowed me to sleep more on public transportation. We are traveling every few days, so the necessity to sleep has helped me sleep fairly decently given that it is on a moving vehicle.
3 hours seemed excessive, but Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site for a reason. According to Vietnamese mythology, Ha Long means, “descending dragon”. A dragon came down from heaven or somewhere… and planted pearls which grew into the many islands that come out of the bay and the dragon stays in the bay to protect it, so the story goes.
The day trip included lunch on a boat that tours the bay, a short hike through one of the caves on one of the islands, and a bamboo boat ride/or kayak ride near the floating fishing village in the bay. We opted for the bamboo boat ride since it was pretty wet and we did not want to be wet on the 3 hour bus ride back to Hanoi.
Some views of the bay appeared as if the islands were watercolors on a backdrop. The pictures do not do it justice for the awesomeness of the natural world. The birds sang and flew from island to island. There were these rounded alcoves created by some of the islands that reminded me of Jurassic Park. It was almost as if I expected to see a terrestrial bird fly overhead. There was an eerie sense of calm and serenity when all you could hear was birds singing.
The cave was also something that appeared otherworldly. The ceiling reminding me of what I imagine the surface of the moon to look like. They illuminated it with some different colored lights, but it did not take away from the impressive stalactites that rained down from the ceiling. They had what seemed like a fun game of animals and people hidden in these rock formations and they would tell us the story of the couple, turtle, snake, or dragon that were hiding in the walls of the cave. The bay was impressive enough, this was an added bonus to the trip.
Another interesting factoid that I have been pondering is that most of these sites (caves, archeological foundations, etc…) are fairly recent discoveries. This particular cave was not found until after a monsoon in the 1990’s. A country with ancient history, yet they are still discovering these gems within their own country. War and colonization are most likely to blame for their late discovery, but it gives them a feel of newness. One of the deepest caves in Vietnam was just discovered in Vietnam a few years ago. Just when humans think that they have explored everything there is to explore on this planet. Truly humbling to think about.
Sayonara for now… D&M