FROM THE CITY TO THE BAY

26 04 2010

We are back in Hanoi after spending three amazing days in along the coast. We visited Halong Bay which is a spectacular area along the coast, famous for the over three thousand small islands made of limestone that rise vertically out of the water and are topped with lush vegetation. We met up with 18 or so other people on Saturday morning at the hostel and then made the 4 hour bus ride to Halong City. Just a quick note about bus travel, I am not sure what is scarier driving on the roads or trying to cross them but both have their hazards and make for an exciting way to get around.  Once  we reached Halong we took a small supply boat out to the Jolly Roger a 100’ wooden junk. We got to the boat and relaxed on the top deck for a while before having a lunch. We eventually got under way and made the two hour journey to an area in the bay near where would anchor for the night. When we stopped we got to swim for a while and the best way to get into the water was to jump from the top deck. After a few exhilarating leaps into the water and swimming around the boat for a while we got back on deck and got ready to go explore a cave on a nearby island. We kayaked for about an hour to the entrance of the cave where we tied the boats up before entering. The cave was fairly large but did have a couple of tight sections that you had to squeeze through which eventually led to a little hidden lake in the center of one of the islands. After exploring for a little bit we climbed back through the cave and kayaked back to the boat just in time for the sunset. After getting cleaned up we all had a nice big dinner and then the games began. All 18 of us sat around a long table to play a drinking game called ring of fire. I am not going to begin to explain what transpired over that evening but a few of the high lights included dancing on chairs, piggy back rides and a lot of cheap beer. Justyna and I could not keep up with the young crown and bowed out after about four hours and retired to our private cabin on the bout for a nice night of sleep. On Sunday we got up early and after breakfast the portion of our group, about eight of us, who opted for an additional day in the bay boarded a transfer boat to head off to a secluded island. We sailed for about an hour or so until we reach a place called Castaway Island passing floating villages , junks and fisherman. The island was really cool with just a bunch of thatched roof bungalows with no walls and a few small out buildings. We were in a little sheltered cove with 200’ cliffs rising to either side and a nice beach in front of us. After exploring the grounds for a bit we played badminton for a little while and then had lunch. We followed that with a quick swim and then all got together for a quick lesson on wake boarding. We split up into two groups and being part of the second group Justyna and I waited as the first few went out to try their skills. Our turn was next and we boarded the boat and headed out for a quick demonstration before it was my turn to get in the water. I had a terrible time getting up on the board as the boat started to pull but on my third try I managed to get up only to have them accidentally back off the throttle causing me to slow down and fall. On my fourth try I again got up and once I got the board oriented properly it was much like snowboarding and I was able to ride it for a while which was great fun. Justyna finally gave it a go and was able to get the board out of the water but had trouble going from a squatting position to standing, most people had the same problem. After getting beat up on the board for a little while we headed back to the island where Justyna and I got to climb one of the cliffs next to the beach. A guide named Anslo came out on his boat and met us on the beach. Anslo wound up being from Vermont and he learned to climb in the same place we did. He let me lead the first route a 5.8 up a dirty face and then we climbed a much harder but cleaner route to the left. By the time we got done with all these activities and got cleaned up it was dinner time. They barbequed a ton of food and we all ate good before yet again the games began. We played another round of ring of fire which turned out to be a lot of fun. One of the cards in the game was called “make a rule” and Justyna used it force our guide to go around the table and tell us all what he really thought of each of us. After our first game we decided to go for a swim. One of the really cool things about Halong Bay is that it has phosphorescent algae in the water that glow as you swim. It is really wild to see this and the farther offshore you got the more intense the glow became. After drying off we got back to the games for a while before just hanging out sharing stories from home and our travels. We woke up on the last day of our trip to Halong to thunder and lightning. We had a small breakfast and boarded the transfer boat to make the 4 hour journey back to port. We follow up the boat ride with another 4 hours on the bus finally making it back to Hanoi around 5PM. Justyna and I got cleaned up and took a walk around town before having a couple of bowls of Pho (rice noodle soup with beef or chicken) at a street stall. After that we called it a day, I have been getting a cold and figured the rest would do me some good. Today we woke up with intentions of booking our tickets out of Hanoi via overnight train with hopes of leaving either tonight or tomorrow at the latest. But as usual in travel things don’t  always go the way you want them to and much to our dismay it turns out that all modes of transport heading south out of the city are booked due to two back to back holidays. The earliest we will be able to leave is the night of the first. So we are going to visit a hill town to the north and stay in a villagers house tomorrow night. We will be leaving tonight on the slow night train and returning on the 30th. This is a lot more time than we wanted to spend around Northern Vietnam but sometimes the best things about traveling are the unplanned experiences that turn up along the way.

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2 responses

2 05 2010
Uncle Richard

Gee,I think you guys need to incorporate a little more activity into your itinerary….Linda and I just returned from an exhausting stay with your parents ….all that knife and fork lifting and then an intense cardio trek upstairs to the bedroom each night….and your Dad and I,dead lifting the remote control hour after hour…….But seriously,have fun and be careful.Keep us posted.
Uncle R and Aunt L

30 04 2010
mom, dad, maggie

Hi Andrew and Justyna, Today is April 30th here. Just saw on the news it is the 35th aniveresary of the fall of Saigon. Looked like there were celebrations going on. Don’t know if you are anywhere that may also mark the date,thought I’d let you know. Your climbs look great and what incredible adventures-I love that we can share this saga with you both. Had a great visit with Linda and Richard. They are going to start checking the blog when they get home. Hope they get in touch. Stay safe “L” M,D,M

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