Friday, November 23, 2007

Just Came Back from Halong Bay Tour

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.


Ana S. said...

It sounds like you are having a wonderful time - and unfortunately time always seems to go by much too fast when that is the case.

It also sounds like you met some fascinating people. Joe sounds great! It is always inspiring to see elderly people who are so passionate about life. It goes to show that old age doesn't have to be bleak, which is how society tends to portray it.

And I think you're right, most of us dream of doing something like that. But you made me ask myself, would I actually? I don't mind roughing it a bit, but I do think I draw the line at bedbugs :P

My boyfriend and I were talking about this a few days ago... before we'd always talk of going on a Inter-rail across Europe, but these days we admit that we probably won't actually do it, because the idea of travelling by train non-stop for a month sounds more painful than pleasant. I am willing to make sacrifices to travel, but after a certain point I get too tired and grumpy to actually enjoy myself, and if I am to be miserable I might as well stay at home.

So... I don't know. I guess the best is to have reasonable goals. I do want to travel - it is honestly one of my goals in life - but I will do it bit by bit, in manageable doses, so that I can actually enjoy things as much as possible. 7 months on the road would just be too much for me, although I do admire those who do it.

Enjoy the rest of your trip! I expect some pictures when you return :P

Carl V. Anderson said...

Sounds wonderful, and yet I love your 'back to reality' comments concerning the not so glamorous parts of travel. But the great thing about it all is the lasting memories will be the ones of the adventure, the joy of discovery, the things you would not have seen or experienced without taking the plunge and setting off on the journey. I'm very happy for you.

chrisa511 said...

The trip sounds beautiful! It seems like one of those life experiences that you certainly won't forget. You've met some very unique individuals and seen some wonderful sights!

I envy people who are able to travel a lot sometimes, but then I think of all the things you mentioned and I really don't know if I could spend months on end travelling. On paper it sounds nice, but in reality it would be rough! Have a good time for the rest of your time there!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you've had quite an adventure on the trip. Is it really that cold on the junk that you'll catch a cold? So the heat isn't stifling then.

One of the greatest rewards of travel is that you will meet people from all over the world, even if you only brush shoulders with them.

I was just looking at my passport as I'm getting ready for the trip. I've got 4 pages left and that should be barely enough for Malaysia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, neither of which requires a visa.

Keep on exploring and enjoying, would catch up with you soon. :)

darkorpheus said...

Nymeth Seriana is totally cool - and genuinely nice. But I am with you on the bedbugs - the red welts on her are alarming. No thank you.

And Seriana did mention how it's a constant challenge, always waking up in new places, having to constantly seek out the cheapest accomodation, where to eat etc.

And she was joking that after staying at the cheap dorms for 7 months, she has no modesty left. She just strips to change in front of anyone. ;p

But I think you can still travel, in a more manageble way. Maybe backpack to France or something? It's still travelling. At your own terms.

Pictures will be of Halong Bay mainly.

Carl Thanks Carl. I really enjoyed the Halong Bay tour. It was so restful. I was watching the sun set there and taking photos. But after a while I stopped taking photos and just watched the sun going down.

Chris I think I will probably stick to the 1~2 trips a year plan. It does gets harder as years goes by and you have a job, and commitments. Doesn't mean we have to abandon travelling plans, but maybe just modify them a little.

Matt 4 pages left? It should be okay - the customs officers always find a place to stamp. Just wondering, your passport - is it biometric? I just renewed my passport and I'm still curious about how the biometric passport works.

On, it was at night - so you have the sea breeze coming in and you'll need a jacket. It's bearable, but you definitely need a blanket if you want to sleep under the stars.

Anonymous said...

I'm bringing a jacket with me for the cool weather up at the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. I do plan to do some hiking up there.

The passport is biometric so it saves a lot of time clearing immigration.