Cruising Along
Halong Bay...
On Halong  Bay.
During the sunset.
A Vietnamese woman working.
November 21, 2006

It’s amazing how easy it is to travel through this country. I was initially thinking that it was going to take a lot more effort on my part to get to
certain places (such as Halong Bay). This was sure not the case when it came to getting out here. I booked a 2-day, 1-night trip that included the
three hour bus ride (to and from), the boat rides along Halong Bay, a hotel room on Cat Ba island and four meals for the whopping total of $35.  

We got on our junk boat and headed out toward the limestone islands that protrude out from the bay. The bay wasn’t filled with just junk boats; we
were also seeing locals going about their daily routines. One in particular was a boy in a boat with produce who pulled up to our boat and climbed on
to start selling his goods. Once his work was done, we got back into his boat and rowed off in a different direction. I am still not entirely sure how he
got his boat to stay put while he got on our boat. Maybe he tied it to our boat? Hmmm…

We made a brief stop at a cave. This cave turned out to be far more impressive that I was expecting. I thought we would be going into a dingy little
cave. Not the case. As I have said before, I am so amazed at what nature can do. For a brief moment, things like this cave seem as if they have been
created for the tourist’s viewing pleasure. But it hasn’t. This one, in particular, was found by a fisherman. The only thing unnatural about it now is
the lighting that shines throughout to enhance the cave. And I’m sure the pathway wasn’t here either when the cave was initially found.

For the next couple hours we cruised along the bay. So relaxing. So serene. So beautiful. We were the only boat in sight (which was surprising as
there were so many other boats at the caves). The sky was overcast with moments when the sun would try to filter through. The whole ride was
breathtaking. We eventually got to Cat Ba island and got on a van to get to the center of town.

After checking into the hotel, I headed down to the port which was perfectly situated for this time of day as it gave a clear view of the sunset.


There is a storm that is going on at this very moment. It is one of the most incredible storms I have ever seen. This is large part because I am
indoors right now as I know I would have entirely different feelings if I was outside when this downpour began.

I can’t even say that there’s lightning outside. When I think of lightning I think of a few rods shooting through the sky. What I am experiencing right
now is a flashing in the sky that just won’t stop. It is so consistent that it’s almost like a huge flickering light bulb that can’t make up its mind to be on
or off.

And then there is the street (that runs a little bit downhill) that my hotel is on. I take that back. This afternoon it was a street; now it is a river. It
truly is. It is even the same murky brown color that certain rivers tend to be. Just a few minutes ago, we were all standing in the doorway with our
mouths wide open because it was unlike anything we had ever seen before.

Hopefully Mother Nature will get this out of her system tonight so that tomorrow we can enjoy another beautiful boat ride through the Halong Bay.
Guess only time will tell…

November 22, 2006

The storm last night seemed to push everything out of the sky to make way for beautiful blue skies this morning. The boat ride in Halong Bay could
not have been more pleasant and peaceful. I still could not get over just how many islands are out in this bay. To look out into the far distance, it
looks as if the islands are nothing but a series of shadows. Nothing but shadows that have layers and layers overlapping one another.

From here, we pretty much headed on our way back to Hanoi. Everybody I was on this trip with was so sweet. There were about nine middle-aged
French people. Of them, one spoke English. When they realized I was on my own, they went out of their way to befriend me. I will have to admit that
I was quite flattered. To be befriended by the French as they are with their friends is quite a feat. They even saved a place for me at dinner last
night. Really just too cute. The one lady who spoke English felt bad that I wouldn’t understand much of what they were saying. I told her not to
worry as I enjoy sitting back and listening to people speak French. There was another couple on my trip, Sandy and Frank, who were from
Vancouver, Canada. A great couple that I had a wonderful time hanging out with on the boat and sitting with at most meals. On the drive home there
were two Americans in our van that I ended up sitting next to. One was from Aspen; the other lived in Sunnyvale in the Bay Area. It was funny
because when she told me she taught at De Anza and Stanford, both of those words sounded really familiar but it still took me a while to place them.
It was totally bizarre. It took me several seconds to realize that those were places that were at home. It has been so long since I have heard
references to places at home that it completely through me for a loop! Anyway, these two friends were on the tail-end of their Vietnam trip and they
were giving me some good pointers and suggestions for the remaining cities that I plan to visit in Vietnam.

Right now, I am waiting in my hotel. I just got off of a 3 ½ hour bus ride. I had a small two hour break in Hanoi and now I am soon to get on a 12
hour bus ride to Hue. The things I do to save a little bit of money…
Back to Vietnam.