Vietnam - Halong bay

When we organized our trip to Vietnam, there was very little planning involved, as I like the path to lead me and usually trust my gut feeling more than travel agents, but there was one attraction that was a 'must' for us. Ha long bay. I don’t remember where I saw images from that ancient bay before, but the image was stuck in my mind, and I knew that this was not an opportunity to miss. It was a wise decision.

After a short bus drive from Hanoi, stopping in all the usual souvenir shops and roadside eateries that are on any bus driver list of extracurricular income, we arrived to a port which was , lets just say it was less than impressive. Modern, dirty, full of tourist trap boats and groups of tourists rushing from side to side after their guides like lemmings.

After that frightening moment, we were relieved to see that the boat we booked is smaller, much older, made in a Chinese Vietnamese style and craftsmanship and the rest of the guests, totaling in four couples were the kind of people it might not be too bad to spend two days on a boat with.  We left the modern luxury to the tourists and set off to an adventure out at sea.

There are one thousand nine hundred and twenty six islands in Ha long bay. I counted them. Ok, I didn’t really count them, but I do remember the number because someone did count them. Most are not more than a big rock formation towering over the water, but the big ones are real islands, with people and all. There are so many , and they are spread so thinly it sometimes seems like you could jump from one to another and just go on a tour of the area.



Waking up in a boat sailing softly on the turquoise waters between a thousand islands is an amazing experience, with the silence of the early morning hours broken only by the cicada song from the nearby islands. It is such an amazing place that even the splitting headache from last night's cheap Vietnamese vodka didn’t manage to ruin it.

There are many tourist ships roaming those seas , two or three days cruises going nowhere between small lovely rocks towering from the water, and we chose one that looked both semi authentic and also within our very limited budget. This decision proved to be crucial to the trip and gave some added value to these couple of days.

Breakfast was two pieces of toast, a fried egg and a banana. If you asked nice, you could get a second banana. Communism is communism comrade. Which we found entertaining . I have to admit that a nice big breakfast is something I appreciate in a vacation, and when there is no heavy touring ahead but just sitting on a boat all day it is even more pleasant, but on this old wooden boat what they served was perfect.


 It was a reflection of the whole tour. Quiet, peaceful, very modest and extremely non intrusive as we sailed softly ahead stopping once in a while in one of the islands for a short hike to the peak for better view or a cave of spectacular  stalactiteand stalagmites sights . And I double dare you to try and say that last sentence ten times after a couple of shots of that horrible Vietnamese vodka.

Other than the somewhat annoying cicada song which is still stuck in my head, a vision that I will always remember is the sight of a butterfly coming on board, flying on minute wings from the closest island which was at least five hundred meters to our left, stopped for a minute to catch his breath on the wood railing, and then continued his journey to the island in the other side, another three or four hundred meters to the right of the boat. Now that is dedication, that is perseverance. But hey, it is a Vietnamese butterfly, and this is how they are.

Resilient, strong, proud, persevering. No matter how many oppressors and bloodshed, they will get to that island on the other side.



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