Hello. Can't believe it's Friday already. Where did the time go?
I have just returned from my 1 night, 2 days tour down Halong Bay -- and I regret not signing up for a longer trip. The scenery there is beautiful. You spend the night on a junkboat, and if you wish, you can choose to sleep on the upper deck under the stars (of course there is the risk of catching a cold). My shoulders are aching from my kayaking trip yesterday morning -- which could have been worse, but thankfully I was with a kayak-partner who was a big, strong six-feet tall guy (who is incidentally a BIG Lakers and Dodgers fan) who looked out for me. He did most of the work paddling, I believe. (Thanks, Jack!)
We went out in the kayaks around the bay, past many very small islands. At one point we were surrounded by high cliffs and the shrill, crackling cries of monkeys from the islands. We couldn't see the monkeys; they were probably well-hidden within the islands. But I loved looking up and watching the eagles soaring, circling above us. It's the kind of scene that makes you just stop and watch, drink it all in. And you are glad you have come to this place, because you would not have been able to see this back home.
I do recommend a trip down to Halong Bay if you ever make it to Hanoi.
While I was on the junkboat, I met some of the other people on the tour. There were a group of five French nationals travelling together. Their English were weak, so conversation was difficult. Then there was Joe, and his sons Jack and Ezra. Joe is 90 years old, and he is in Vietnam for Ezra's wedding (Ezra married a Vietnamese girl). Everyone is in awe of Joe's feisty spirit. He is 90 years old, for goodness sake, but he doesn't seem to let anything stop him.There was also this Swiss girl, Seriana, perhaps the most interesting one on the tour. She's 25 years old, and she has been travelling around for 7 months. She still has about 3-4 months to travel until her money runs out. (For the year before she started on her journey, she worked as a hair-dresser, she worked other odd-jobs in a bar and in a boutique on the weekends to save money). Everyone is in awe of her, the girl who actually took the Gap-Year and travelled. I guess deep down inside, there is always this desire for adventure. I think I admire her enthusiam, and I wish I can be like her.
I happened to share a cabin with her, and during one of our chit-chats, she showed me the marks on her body from the bedbugs and leeches earned from her travel. This is where the romance of wanderlust sort of comes to halt.
Adventure is nice and good, but the reality is that they have to be endured. The question is: Am I really brave enough to throw aside the comforts of home for this kind of experience? Maybe I have become too settled for my own good.
On the bus journey back to Hanoi, some of the people on the tour group started comparing everyone's passports. What was interesting was how many pages I had on my passport -- 64 pages -- as compared to those of the other countries: Canada, USA, Switzerland, England and France. I was also the only one who did not need a VISA for Vietnam, coming from Asia as I did, and Vietnam being part of ASEAN. (I was also exempted from VISA application for Turkey and China.)
What this tells me is how well-placed it is for me to travel, and I still don't seem to do it enough. One could really take a page from Seriana and her free-spirit ease -- she was the sort who opens up to people easily, something I don't do well.
Alas. Alas. Alas.