ha long bay, vietnam: unesco heritage site
It is proving to be difficult to find the words that justify this experience. Ha Long Bay is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, serene places I have ever been in my life. I am very much a city person and have been doing most of my travels in cities with nature day trips along the way. I love nature, as well, however, I rarely find myself in such quiet and isolated places.
Upon arrival, there was a torrential downpour after Vietnam's hottest heat wave in over 40 years. I did not know what to expect as the trip I had originally signed up for got cancelled and shifted to another (serendipitous?- I think so :)). I always find it fun to be surprised and this blew me away! It was a mini cruise ship for about 20 of us, each with our own rooms, setting sail on the waters. I thought there were only several islands in Ha Long Bay, I did not realize there were thousands!!! We set off at lunch and rode for miles weaving in and out of the islands. Just as we were finishing lunch, the sun began to peak out and beam down onto us and the water.
My tour guide, Tony, guided our group from over 10 countries and spanning 70+ years of age difference through Ha Long Bay for our 2 day experience. The staff on the boat was so nice, the 3 meals were amazingly prepared (with special vegetarian options and flowers made of fruits) and the views were endless. On the first day, we visited a floating village via an hour tour from the rowing ladies. It was amazing to see these people's houses in the middle of the water.
It was one of my favorite moments of my travels: during the floating village tour, the rowing ladies would use their nets to pick up trash. It was so sad how much trash floated in the water but it was amazing to see these ladies preserving the earth and going out of their way to ensure they cleaned up what they could. They would then transfer the trash to the man in the photo or in a waste recycle bin in the water. I have never seen such direct action to take care of our earth. I was so moved.
Ha Long Bay not only takes waste very seriously, it also practices environmentally-friendly aquaculture via responsible tourism and fishing. It is amazing to see people doing everything they can to protect such a beautiful place.
After the tour, we went kayaking!!! I love water sports so much and I was so excited to go rowing about in and out of the islands. My new friend I went with had never gone before so it was fun to experience it with him for the first time! His friends got stuck on a rock so we went to remove them, which made for a good laugh. We returned to the boat for a sun deck happy hour and dinner.
As soon as I got onto the roof deck of the boat, I was greeted with the most amazing sunset and a 4 year old boy with the brightness to match. Benjamin and his family moved to Ho Chi Minh City from Canada for 2 years. So cool to see families traveling and living abroad! We immediately started playing hide-and-go-seek and racing by running on the boat and playing imaginary games. I hadn't spent this much time with a little kid in so long- it was so refreshing and fun and light. I loved the way he thinks. He walks up to anyone and starts talking, he laughs and smiles and jokes, he makes mistakes, he is creative and imaginary, present and full of love and hugs. It absolutely made my trip and I was in the happiest of moods.
That night after dinner, I sat for awhile with a couple from New Zealand going on nearly 50 years of marriage. It was so amazing to spend my night with such contrasting ages and ages I am not around as much. The couple was so wise and warm and present and happy. It reminded me very much of Benjamin's perspective too. I felt at home with them. It made me really miss my grandparents even more, too!
I didn't realize how much I needed this peacefulness and relaxation but I was so grateful to have it. It made me notice how much I have been running and running around one thing to another and taking the time to be in a quiet place gave me such new perspective. I will definitely continue prioritizing and applying these moments of calm. I am also going to remember the spirit of my new friends and their ability to enjoy and be present.
The 2nd day we did a spring roll cooking class and went to the coolest cave within one of the islands! It was the most fun trip and I was so grateful to be immersed in this beauty of both place and people.