Henry reports about our experiences in Halong Bay:
The day finally came. It was time to leave our apartment and get on the bus on our way east to Halong Bay. On the bus, we met our guide Trung, or as he liked to introduce himself, Jackie Trung.
When we arrived at the boat terminal we were greeted with a miniature wooden ferry boat that was ready to taxi us out to our cruise boat. We climbed aboard, in disbelief that an Explorations trip might include so much luxury. We were given our keys, told our schedule, and, of course, Jackie was there with us every step of the way. We were later guided to a floating pearl farming operation in the middle of the bay. It was docked in the most ideal location, surrounded on all sides by steep Karst landscapes. Mere minutes after arriving, having learned the basics of pearl production, a woman sliced into an oyster and extracted a flawless pearl. It was truly a surreal experience.
After the pearl experience, it was time to get up close and personal with that amazing landscape. We hopped on kayaks and took to the water. The air was humid but brisk, and the water was incredibly salty. We paddled without a care in the world exploring every nook and cranny in the rocks, our laughs echoing across the bay.
Once we got back to the cruise we were invited to an open air, tea party on the sun deck. The captivating views made the local ginger tea, fresh watermelon, and sweet pineapple even sweeter. Our bodies warm and our stomachs full, we eagerly embraced the next activity: jumping off the boat and into the sea. The water was the perfect temperature for a cool off. We took turns flipping and flopping until everyone felt completely refreshed. And, of course, ready for dinner.
Dinner was massive, more than seven courses. There was plenty of everything: exotic fruits and vegetables, rice, beef, and pork, but the dish that really stood out for me was the seafood: a giant fish, served whole, covered in onions and peppers, calamari, and prawns. We even had crab cakes served inside the shell of the crab.
Dinner was a huge success, but things got even better afterwards. We were given a chance to catch the next day’s meal: squid. It was not only fun to try our luck at something new, it was a fantastic opportunity to get to know the other people on our boat. We socialized with a family from Argentina, another from Singapore, and even some fellow Americans from Minnesota. They all had their unique stories and perspectives that they were happy to share with us. Ultimately, our group only managed to catch one squid. Nonetheless, it was an amazing night filled with spectacular views of the various boats making up a small city on the bay.
The next morning we visited a cave that opened to the public in 1976. From the gaping opening of the cave we gained a new perspective of the enormity of the bay as well as yet another way to appreciate its beauty. We explored the spectacular caves, admiring the array of formations inside. The cave may have been too touristy for our tastes, but our jaws literally dropped at the amazing sights, which filled us with even greater anticipation for our next stop, Phong Nha, where we will be taking three full days to trek through the jungle to explore some of the biggest caves in the world.
Please note: we will likely be out of contact for the next three days while we are in the jungle. We will send an update as soon as we return.