Firstly, a note to say that we stopped in Hanoi in order to get the boat to Halong Bay. This stop off was somewhat plagued with sickness, torrential rain and accommodation frustration. Nevertheless, it was a means to the most beautiful end…Halong Bay.
We signed up to an overnight cruise with our Hanoi hostel, Backpackers, which included swimming in the bay, kayaking and a basic cooking class. On route, I was too excited to sleep. When the heavy, warm air and the rocking movement of the bus did lull me into a snooze, I dreamt of the landscape we were about to experience. Upon arrival at the harbour, the reality exceeded my imaginings. Mountainous towers of silvery gray rock emerge from the bright azure water, reaching their peaks way above the clouds. Here is where I shall let photography convey what my words cannot…
Kayaking around the rock formations, through narrow caves and around expansive bays, I felt immersed in the place. It was difficult to reconcile memories of bustling Hanoi and congested Ho Chi Minh city with this overwhelmingly beautiful scene.
Sharing a two (wo)man kayak, our previous experience and skills gained in, Phong Nha, completely failed us. Amidst swarms of translucent jellyfish, we spiralled in circles and rocked precariously. Admittedly, my co-kayaker didn’t help as she attempted to flick jellyfish tentacles at me (no jellyfish were harmed in the process, but the temptation to throw my travel buddy overboard was strong!). Also, shout out to the French boys who pulled us and our kayak out of a cave, we’d probably still be there if it wasn’t for you.
After kayaking, we got the chance to swim around the bay where our boat was anchored. As I swam, my mind floated back to the days when I sat chained to my desk writing a dissertation…let’s just say this was a world away. I loved the sensation of my feet treading the cool water, knowing that the water was miles deeper than I could imagine.
After a peaceful, luxurious sleep (which made a change from the hostels!) we went on a boat trip to explore surrounding caves. I must say, our tour guide was questionable. He spent the duration of the trip pointing out rocks that looked a bit like animals (if you squint…a lot). However, the views from the caves were incredible as they overlooked the bay. As our Halong Bay retreat drew to an end, we both felt it had been the most incredible experience in the most beautiful place we had ever seen.