Saturday, June 09, 2007
Ha Long Bay
My final burst of adventure in Southeast Asia was a two day trip to Ha Long Bay, another dramatic Karst landscape about 170 kilometers east of Hanoi. There are thousands of limestone islands dotting the tranquil waters, creating an otherworld panorama of unsurpassed beauty. At least, you get that if its NOT horribly overcast and rainy.
I had booked the tour through the hotel at the same time as I booked the Perfume Pagoda tour. The Ha Long trip cost me 25 US dollars, and that was all inclusive of four meals, aircon van transportation, and one night out on the water. Not bad for 25 bucks.
The first stop was on one of the larger islands, one home to a pair of very large caves. The intricate stalactites and stalagmites were gorgeously lit. Unfortunately, in a trend that I have seen throughout my photos of Vietnam, the low shutter speed has led to some horrifically blurry photos. Alas, none of the pictures I took in the caves came out.
Our tour boat then anchored near a sea cave, and we got to paddle sea kayaks through the cave and into a sheltered lagoon. The steep green and black islands, combined with the constant din of the local bird population combined to create a very magical experience. I'd have to say it was one of my top travel experiences ever, it was just so interesting, enchanting, and utterly different.
That night though, there wasn't much to do, so after dinner I hung out with a pair of Czech travelers who were going to take the Trans-Siberian express back to Europe and an Australian couple who were spending three weeks in Vietnam and Thailand. We had a good time swapping travel stories over Tiger beer.
The next day, my final day of vacation, was a mess. I had a pretty bad hangover, was dehydrated, and had a headache the size of China. Add to all this a 4 hour drive back to Hanoi, and then a several hour wait before my 11:30 flight back to Osaka and I was NOT a very happy camper.
I made it thorough relatively unscathed, and the four hour flight back went without a hitch, depositing me back in Nihon feeling like I had been gone a month rather than a little over a week.