Ha Long Bay: check off the bucket list

Hello! I’m sitting outside at the best hostel in Chiang Mai, thailand at 6 am eating my fave little banana packed with flavour. There is such peace here that writing for the next few days will be easier.
So if you’ve never heard of Ha Long Bay, I’m sure you’ve seen a photo. It is vietnam’s #1 attraction and voted in 2010, 1 of the 7 wonders of the world.
After Sa Pa, which we left at 10 pm on a sleeper bus to arrive at 6 am back in Hanoi. This sleeper bus was not too awesome, who slapped us awake at 4 am, blasting daddy cool, and threw us all on the streets of the city (I took a photo of the bus company so if anyone needs to avoid this guy, I’ll be posting it).
We had a hotel open up its doors for us so we could sit and drink coffee at 4:30 am. Our bus to Ha Long Bay was at 8. This morning was awesome and productive. We ate a huge breakfast buffet for 5$.
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We hopped on the bus to Ha Long Bay (~4.5 hrs) for a cruise we had arrange with a travel agency in the airport when we first arrived in Vietnam. I wasn’t too keen to book these tours because I like to figure things out on my own, to trek it. But the bus to Sa pa (30$) was awesome through them (do not take the local bus to these far away destinations, you’ll regret it) and Ha Long Bay tour (90$) was amazing and well worth it.
Our tour guide, Quinn, was super happy with the biggest smile and knowledgable. We goofed around with him a bit. Our group was a bunch of backpackers our age.
We then boarded our cruise ship.
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It was a dream come true for me cruising through Ha Long: which means landing dragon. I love when cultures make sense of landscapes with animals. A dragon landed in these waters, the islands popping out everywhere being its back.
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We had lots planned that day. First they served us lunch – they serve you waaaay too much food but holy goodness! Spring rolls forever.
We then went to one of the islands and hike up inside into the most amazing cave. I walked barefoot, feeling such peace and immense greatness. No words or picture can capture this vast creation. I’ll post a photo soon however. It was great at one bit, there were rock towers. From the first place in my life I saw rock towers, Martha’s vineyard, to here in Vietnam in a cave. I was feeling peace and awe.

We then went kayaking. I wanted to say this was my favourite bit but all excursions were A+. We cruised to a nearby floating village to hop on kayaks. We had 40 mins to explore. Rach and I, Em and a backpacker from South dakota paddled out and went through a cave of one of these islands. As we exited a silence over came us. We listened to the waves pull on and out against the island, persistently carving out craters. We hurried back and got on the boat. The two Dutch boys pointed out a monkey shaking a tree on the island nearby. Quite lucky!

The last excursion was to the island with a beach and a temple on top – 1000 steps to the top. We did the hike first, sweating a bit. The view was amazing of the bay.
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Finally we got to enter these waters and swim as the sun was setting. The whole day our hearts were melting.
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That night we went squid fishing – we caught one! Inked a whole lot. Then karaoke! I was called out real hard to sing – but I hid in the back. The tour guides were singing their hearts out. Super jazzy. Then the two Dutch boys killed it singing backstreet boys, so funny. Karaoke is huge in Asia!

The next morning we went to a pearl farm. Will finish on this but in all, this trip was magic!

Leaving at 8 am for elephant sanctuary. Gotta shower – which is a rare occasion; you never feel good looking backpacking. Super stoked for what today awaits!
Peace

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