We drove to the coast this morning from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. We were part of a steady stream of big and little buses carrying thousands of tourists to the boats in the bay. There is a ton of construction going on – hotels, golf courses, glad to be here before all that is finished. Halfway between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, we stopped for a half-hour break. We were to meet up on the other side of a huge, square block, maybe airplane-hanger size shopping store. It was filled with hundreds of tourists. The prices were double anywhere else. One section was filled with Vietnamese artisans maimed in the war – the one they call the “American War.” They were weaving, painting and sculpting art to sell to tourists. Emerging with our money intact on the other side, we found our bus and drove on.
By 1:00 pm we were on our boat, the V’Spirit. Thankfully we were warned that the first day, the bay is like a parking lot. Scores of boats, all heading for the caves, then a man-made sand beach. We are a group of 17 on the boat, Australians, French, Czech, a Canadian, four girls from Amsterdam… We had lunch with the Czech couple who lived in So Cal for a few years. They are going back to the Czech Republic to open a Bed and Breakfast. This afternoon, we walked through the largest cave in the area. They consider Ha Long Bay one of the seven Natural Wonders of The World, along with Iguazu Falls, the Amazon Rain Forest and can’t remember the rest…
Then on to the beach and a hike up about 450 stone steps to an outlook at the top of the hill.
We had dinner with the young Canadian guy and the Australian man. Good food, good company. After dinner, I spoke to a French woman with knee problems. In my attempt to help her, I used every French word I knew, 2 years of high school French, Ballet, and food French. It was fun to be on the other end of the language spectrum. This time I was the one who spoke another language! Whatever we accomplished, we did a lot of laughing.