Monday, February 22, 2010
Halong Bay is breathtaking!
I'ts 7.15 Monday morning and I'm now back from a few days visiting Halong Bay - a UNESCO World Heritage site that if you ever have the chance to go - you MUST go! It is absolutely amazing and breath taking (I am working on getting some photos up, limited computer access....)
My adventure started Friday morning at 7.56am when I woke up in my dark dorn to discover that my alarm hadn't woken me up at 7am like it was supposed to and I was meant to be at the bus to leave for Halong Bay at 8am. IAs you can imagine there was alot of running around, dropping everything, and in my attempt to pack and dress in 4 minutes, I pretty much ended up taking nothing with me (you left your main pack in the luggage storage at the hostel). So basically, I had the clothes I was wearing for the whole 3 days, a torch, some swimmers, some showering stuff and camera's... oops. But I did manage get dressed, close my pack, store my pack, grab a bread roll from the free breakfast section and make it onto the bus, all within about 10 minutes!! It was definitely a relief to be on the bus when it left for Halong Bay.
With dubious weather reports we headed off to Halong Bay, when we arrived in the harbour it is absolute madness there! Very glad we had the tour all sorted out, there are tourists and locals and people everywhere with no real direction or sense to it at all. There are so many boats on the harbour as well! Alot of boat congestion and it was funny watching some of them collide accidently as they entered the harbour to pick us up.
We jumped upon a boat which took us to the sailing boat that we were on for the night (named the Jolly Roger). We had a group of about 15 people with us I think. Pretty good bunch of people. We had lunch on the boat then spent the next few hours cruising through the bay and the islands. We happened to have an awesome day, a bit cool but we did get a little bit of sunshine, enough for us to strip down to shorts and singlets and enjoy the warmth. Words cannot express how beautiful the area is - when it is sunny the water is this turquoise colour and these big and small islands jutting out of the water all over the place with jungle covering the rock. Beautiful.
While we were floating through this beautiful scenery, Charlotte (another Australian girl) and myself decided to climb the rope ladder to the top of the mast for fun and for a better view, it was definitely worth it! None of the boys were daring enough to do it! :)
Once we were somewhere in the heart of the bay (it would be extremely easy to get lost there, especially when it gets misty), we all got to jump off the top of the boat into the water, which was a little bit cool but not overly cold (it was still overcast). Once we were all nice and wet then we jumped into some kayaks and explored the bay and some of the islands by kayak. I was the last one into a kayak so I ended up being on my own which resulted in many many sore muscles as i had to try keep up with the others in doubles! We went under a cave to explore a bay in the middle of one of the islands where we saw some monkeys playing around jumping through the jungle. Then we kayaked over to another area where there was an actual cave that we all climbed into and explored with some difficulty due to the fact that it was very dark and we only had 2 torches between 15 people!! Luckily we made it with no casualties and had a bit of fun there.
kayaked back to our boat where we continued to cruise through the bay a bit more. I correctly guessed the number of islands (apparently 1967 islands) so won a free beer. We had some dinner and bit of fun with the rest of our small crew (the boat can fit around 40 people so it was small) for the rest of the night before sleep. I managed to take some night photo's of the boats in the harbour - there are heaps of boats hanging around - apparently 500 are on the water at a time!
on Saturday we woke up early and checked out of the boat, jumped onto another little boat which took 7 of us who were doing a 2nd night camping on 'castaway island'. We cruised around for about half an hour to get to the island. Saturday the temperature had dropped even more -its so cold up here north :( so it wasn't particularly inspiring to get into the water.
We all got to do an activity as part of our 2nd day, however due to some miscommunication, our only options were water-sports as the rock-climbing people had to be warned in advance. So 4 of us decided that why not we would go try our best at wake boarding! I am proud to say that i got up first time and aced it!! yay!! I love the water!! It was not at all tempting to get into the water because of the cold air but once i was in I loved it. Once I got out.... that was another story. I was freeeeeeeezing. Now have a bit of a head-cold because of the water and changes in temperature and everything. but so does everyone else around here at the moment so thats okay!!!
The food on the boat we had was amazing, the food on the island wasn't quite so. grease grease and more grease. yuck yuck yuck. oh well. I'm finding that I am craving vegetables. Oh funny thing, discovered that two of the girls on the tour are from wollongong, one of whom is housemates with a girl I went to uni with! Small world!
Went to bed pretty early on Saturday as I wasn't feeling the best, had the best night sleep though because I had 3 doona's and 2 mattresses under me. We were camping in these cute little thatched huts with mosquito nets to keep the bugs out and because was only a small group of us, we could get as many blankets as we wanted so I was nice and toasty!!
Because it was so cold, I didn't do a night swim in the water which sparkles at night (it's prety cool) but i did wander in about knee deep to see it. Very cool.
On Sunday we had breakfast then back on a speed boat which took us to the main sleeper boat where we caught up with other people we knew (and didn't), cruised back to the harbour through all the mist/drizzle and cold (freezing day - we totally picked the best weather for it!!).
On the bus driving back to Hanoi, it was a very very full bus and I was up near the front for most of it - tried to get a video of the traffic which was an interesting experience. In Australia when you are overtaking a vehicle you would usually keep a few hundred metres in front of your vehicle and the oncoming one. In Vietnam, not so. Five metres maybe? Less? Probably! It is insane to watch! you probably spend more time on the opposite side of the road than you do, with cars and bikes coming towards you. Might always wins the fight, biggest vehicles always win and get right of way. You just push your way through.
Same thing goes for crossing the road. You don't even realy bother to look anymore because there are no such things as 'gaps' in traffic. You just cross and everyone else will work their way around you.
So I'm in Hanoi for the next couple of days while I'm waiting on my Laos Visa being processed, then going to head up to Sapa for a couple days then onto Laos!!
I met a Aussie Christian guy last night named Will, that was a bit cool, surreal conversation regarding philosophy and living overseas. He is currently doing short term mission in china teaching English. As I've been travelling around I have been thinking I'd like to get more involved in working in developing countries. I'm planning to apply for a post-grad diploma through Curtin University working towards a masters in international health. Today I had an email from Interserve Missions about short-term mission in health in Asia so I've replied to them, see what happens with that.