Halong Bay is known for its junk boats and beautiful scenery. Dev and I book a 2-day tour, costing us $105 each.
We arrive in Halong Bay at 12:30 after a 4-hour ride in a van. The boat wasn’t quite the way I expected. I had imagined a brown boat, looking like a pirate ship, with orange sails. Instead, I saw an all-white boat. All the boats were. I was told that the boats were painted all white after the locals heard that Europeans have all white boats. I think the boats would have looked beautiful in their natural wood finish.
When we walk onto the boat, the interior is beautiful; our room is nice, cozy, and the bathroom is modern. It exceeded my expectations.
The boat leaves the port, and soon we are surrounded by gorgeous hills.
During the day we visit a cave. It’s a big cave, but nothing like what we just saw at the Phong Nha National Park.
After cave viewing we kayak around the bay for one hour, followed by some beach time. The water is nice an warm, almost as warm as Carribean waters. A thunderstorm approaches, the air cools; we all leave the beach, but not before I get this photo:
It starts to rain.
In the evening, the thunderstorm proved to be amazing. As I showered before dinner, the sound of amazing thunder and flashes of lightning added to the experience.. The lightning felt closer than usual, perhaps an effect of being in the bay. It feels surreal.
The video doesn’t capture the magnificence of the thunderstorm, but it gives you a glimpse. You can skip 50 seconds into the video.
Video credit: Dev
Over the two days, we dine with other people on the boat. The boat has about 25 people aboard; most seem to be on vacation, and respond with some excitement when I tell them I am traveling for 4 months.
I enjoy dinner with a family of three from Holland (mom and her two daughters), and a teacher from Germany. We talk a lot about her being a teacher, and overall it seems that she doesn’t enjoy it. We talk about education in general, and it seems that teachers in Germany also have a tough time with salary, students, and other issues.
Later on the evening is some karaoke, with few people participating. Most people are just hanging out and chatting.
Waking up in the morning, this is my view:
During breakfast, I have conversation with a couple from Denmark – a man who worked for a solar company, and the woman studying to be a doctor. We talk a lot about solar energy, and the man really loves technology, so he’s excited to talk to me as I’m from Silicon Valley. I told him of Google’s self-driving cars which could be seen on the highway, or Teslas, people wearing Google Glasses; he was excited to hear about all this. It made me appreciate living in the Bay area.
As we finish up breakfast, we arrive at an oyster farm to see how pearls are made. Reminds me a lot of the silk worm experience.
Afterwards we begin heading back to shore, and have lunch on the way. During lunch, my company is a couple from Barcelona; upon hearing that I’m from California, they tell me how they are interested in moving there one day. They are unhappy with the economy in Spain, finding a new job isn’t easy. They were envious of Dev and I quitting our jobs to travel for 4 months. It was interesting to hear that.
I did encounter an old-fashioned, non-painted junk boat. It stood out from all the other white boats.
After lunch we arrive back to the port; after a 4 hour bus ride, we arrive back to Little Hanoi Hostel. In a few hours, Dev and I will depart by train to the iconic rice terraces of Sa Pa, our last destination in Vietnam.