At the docks, it is mass chaos
. As soon as you get out of a bus, other people are put right back onto. The boats are the same way. There are probably about 100 boats moored to take visitors all over. The goal here is to make sure that you stay with your group. If not, you have lost them forever. We all managed to stay with our leader and had to climb on one boat to hop over to our boat. We were off...or so we thought. A couple of hours later, we had lunch while moored and then we started to head off into the Halong Bay wonder. It really is breath-taking. It was a grey day so you couldn't see the greens of the islands. The islands all sort of blend together and you wonder if the eye is playing games. It isn't easy to decipher between a grey shadow or another outlying island. The islands seemed to be layered upon each other. Absolutely amazing. Eventually, you come to the first stop. A cave that is huge and magnificent. Seriously, it is amazing. You just pinch yourself to make sure that it is real. From there you move on to an island where there are locals (an assumption that they came from the floating village) playing soccer (or football for the rest of the world). This island has a beautiful view, if you climb all of the way to the top. I just went a quarter of the way up to enjoy the view from a nice little chair. Next up is the place that you moor for the night. In the bay, the ships all come together and form pods of two to three boats. At this point, you can jump off of the different levels of the boat into the sea - which is so salty that you can taste it for days
As night fell and dinner was served, the place just managed to get more gorgeous. There was a full moon illuminating the islands. The lights of all of the ships came on. It was piece of floating heaven. As I am getting up there in age, I went to take a nap for a bit. When I was woken up an hour later, I found that everyone on the boat had switched to drinking vodka and really were quite pissed. Crazy kids!! We had lots of laughs on the deck as the hosts wanted to go to bed but were trying (and failing!) to stay awake while we were up. Before retiring to bed, one last glimpse of paradise and a scare to Daniel. I pretended to be a rat scampering up him as he slept on the deck chair!! I guess the joke was on me in the end as everyone else managed to go to sleep but just as I was falling asleep, I heard all of the rats running on the deck. It sent me into a stupor as I didn't want to be bitten like some of those stories I had heard before. Luckily, they didn't enter the room and I eventually fell asleep.
It's something that you have to do - a trip to Halong Bay. It is this place in the South China Sea that has thousands of rock islands. Knowing that we had to do this, the five of us booked a three day, two night tour. One night would be spent on the boat while the other would be spent on Cat Ba island. It was an early starting tour at about 7:30am. In Vietnamese time, that means that you won't take off until about 8:30am. You will get picked up eventually and then you will sit in the car wondering what is going on. It is something that you just seem to get used to and laugh about it. From Hanoi, the boat docks are about 2.5 hours away. In the middle, you stop for a stretch and this stopping ground looks like any normal European city. At this stop, we managed to see more westerners in one spot than we had passed on our whole travels in Vietnam. Yes, I guess Halong Bay is a tourist spot.