If you ever think that it is not possible to feel some summer heat in December then I will have to disagree with that. It’s almost the middle of the month but Ha Long Bay has the warmest weather I have ever encountered here in Vietnam, so far.
Hanoi, its chill sister — a place with such subtlety to it but still has that je ne sais quoi. However, Ha Long, on the other hand, is the fiery but beautiful and vivacious sibling. Like a hot-tempered girl but is undeniably breathtaking.
But first, let me take you to the events prior to meeting this “heaven on Earth” destination.
Our hotel staff offered us the best deal for the tour. We did not actually book ourselves tickets before going to Vietnam. They are basically angels to us. Aren’t we just the luckiest?
Morning came and we decided to take a different way to start our day. We made our way to one of Hanoi’s best-selling Banh Mi vendors. It is actually just a block away from where we are staying. How cool is that?
We overly enjoyed our breakfast that we almost missed our bus. We hop on the bus and settle in the middle. The bus manages to get in and out of the narrow streets to fetch the other tourists. We almost spent 20 minutes picking up all the passengers. But, its also a great way to see other streets we have not had the pleasure of visiting.
After an hour or two, we reached Ha Long Bay and boy was it packed with people. By now, if you’re an avid reader, you already know that I don’t deal with big crowds very well. I usually shut down and have mini panic attacks just by seeing flocks of people going my way. Our tour guide is kind enough to get us all our tickets to the boat with an inclusion of lunch in it. I can’t actually wait at this point. Just hearing the word “food” makes my heart skip a beat.
One by one, we climb on to the boat — a little rusty, painted with brown hues which look imbalanced because of the harsh sun rays kissing its facade. There’s a certain charm to the boats here. It’s like they’re made to actually match the spectacular view.
We are seated with a couple of tourists we are with for this tour — a couple from South Korea and 3 middle-aged men from Bangladesh. In retrospect, I guess we’re meant to be seated next to each other. Our personalities clicked by the moment we actually sat there. Exchanging stories and even fun facts about our home countries familiarized us with everyone.
Then the next thing we knew, the food came rushing in. Just the aroma of it, even from afar, made our mouths water like crazy. It is funny that when all of the meals are served, the once laughter-filled air is now deafening with silence. I guess food has magic, after all.
As the boats cruise along the long stretch of water trapped in between islands that resembles like the back of a dragon, I can’t help but to close my eyes and just let the air swiftly pass through the gaps of my fingers. I know, I might have missed some views but the feeling is just so relaxing. This must be how heaven feels like — the smell of salt water mixed in with the warm breezes, birds chirping as they glide through the surface of the sea and laughter bursting out of every boats. I will never forget that picture in my head.
We docked in a floating port with small boats lined up on both sides. Some were already rowing in different directions. We quickly grouped ourselves again to get into the same boat. And there we were again, set for a new aquatic journey.
A middle-aged Vietnamese woman with a scarlet mask wrapped across her mouth paddled the boat until we got inside a small cavity. I can only imagine the strength it requires to actually carry these several people back and forth the dock. I really admire her for that.
When we reached the opening, numerous boats were already there, lined up to get inside. It actually felt like we were in a different world inside the lagoon. No other thing is visible outside with its slopes rising as high as my eyes could see.
Then a few minutes more, with countless of rows exerted by the gondolier, we reached a cove with a cave inside.
It is colder inside — almost freezing. We started to climb down narrow steps to reach the abyss. Stalactites are highlighted with lights of blue, pink, yellow and green. It looks something off a sci-fi movie. We did not waste any moment just standing there. We took as many photographs possible.
On our way up, one of my “boat mates” collapsed on to the ground. I immediately gave him a piece of candy to revive his sugar levels. All of us got so nervous for him. Thank the heavens that we were able to bring him out of the cave alive. This experience is one for the books, for sure.
Our Ha Long Bay trip is about to end. The air started to get colder and the shadows grew bigger, darker. I don’t want this to end but it has to. Every good experience ends to unfold anew.
Cruising off into the sunset with nothing but a smile on my face, watching the sun slowly kiss the horizon — bidding goodbye to this beautiful day. Blue skies turn to golden orange and every boat from afar are starting to be just silhouettes. Thin, hazy mist across the bay give everything a mystery, a dreamy look to it. My eyes will never not forget how it felt that afternoon.