In Halong Bay
A vision, it’s just like in a painting. We’ve been waiting to see this for so long, friends.
It all started several years ago when we were living in the cold Paris. Every night we were cuddling in bed, cozy under the blankets in our studio (a studio so tiny that bedroom, kitchen and living room were all in the same space - luckily this doesn’t apply to the bathroom) and every evening we would travel the world through the desktop of our laptop.
Then we would wake up the morning after and walk towards the metro to work just like every morning. We would have our lunch break ordering à emporter from some chinese traiteur, take the metro again, buy a baguette down in the street and then walk back home again and put on our long wool socks (so long that we could get lost in them). And then all over the morning after. And again. But in the evening we would travel, through the screen of that laptop, far away. We would dream about Halong Bay.
November 2017 - it’s been almost three months on the road. After only God (or Google) knows how many kilometers we walked, countries we visited, flights we took and tshirts destroyed by the cheap South East laundries, we finally visited the Halong Bay with our kids.
We woke our puppies up very early in the morning, at dawn. “Hey guys, good morning, wake up. We have to get ready, today we’re going on a boat”. No answer. After all, together they don’t make a 4 year old. “Hey guys, good morning, we have to get on a boat”. A blond head appears with curls that are developing horizontally, for some strange gravitational trick. But he’s still pretty cute. “Mom, boat?”. Ok, someone copied.
It’s 4 hours on the road to reach Halong Bay. The things are two: it will either be neverending or it might even be extremely pleasant if the kids’ nap schedules are coordinating. Of course, the latter won’t happen that easily.
We arrived in the city of Halong late in the morning. The whole trip has been arranged by Paradise Cruise. We arrived at the harbor and we got on a boat that’ll be our house for the next 24 hours.
Boats have that magic vibe: it must be in the wood of the bedrooms, in the round windows. It’s like being in a book for children or in another universe.
Our boat is so beautiful. Three floors, a long, symmetric corridor that leads to the cabins, just like in the movies. Our room is small but it includes a big wardrobe and a private terrace with a little table and two chairs, it’s all we need.
Let’s go, we’re almost in the Bay.
There are some pretty iconic places here, those that you usually see on postcards. It seems like the cliff has been designed with the intent of making pictures to print on cardboard to hang on the kitchen board of a house somewhere else in the world, among all the other postcards. It’s a stunning composition.
Vietnam is usually considered a level B country in the Asian South East. Vietnam doesn’t have that tropical magic that Indonesia has, or the Thai sea, or the nature in Laos and the spiritual side of Cambodia. Vietnam started sparkling attention worldwide recently and for this reason the country is still very independent from that type of tourism that is designed to consume and spend and that could switch off the charme of any place. Halong Bay is slowly getting to that point, because it’s one of the most magical places in Vietnam. However, it still holds on to its magic, to its intimacy: a view from the terrace of a boat.
And this is what we did: we lived the intimacy. We waited for the last minute to have lunch, so that we could avoid the wave of tourists fighting over a buffet before going to kayak in the bay. We were the last ones having lunch, enjoying the view from the deck. The bay is a painting, it’s incredible.
Julien and I are alone on the terrace in our room while the kids are napping under the blanket, hugging.
“Do you see this? It’s incredible.”
“Yes, it’s almost touching.”
We hug. It’s a strong experience, I can’t explain why, but I swear it really is incredibly touching.
A small wooden boat is approaching our ship, some women are selling souvenirs, water bottles, cookies, something to eat and other goods and they deliver it with a long cane. They wear the pointy hat and one of them has a child with her. He is sitting on the bow and he must be Teo’s same age. He stares at me with his huge eyes. I wish I could use that cane as a stair to reach their boat and talk with them. How is life when you spend your days selling souvenirs on the Halong Bay? I share this thought with Julien, we wish we could spend the whole night with them, talking about it.
In the evening there’s a big party on the ship, music and buffet. We eat deliciously. Paradise Cruise is known to be one of the best companies in the area. We are so satisfied and we sleep amazingly. Around us the deepest darkness at night, we are still far from the Bay. It’s fantastic.
Second day: Goodmooooorning travellers!
We get up very early and prepared a bit in a rush to not miss out on anything of what lies ahead. At 8 AM o’clock we jump on the little boat that lead us to the Titop Island. Titop Island is an island in the Bay, famous for its mountain made of steps. Once you climb (literally!) all the steps you can enjoy a 360 degrees view on the bay. We finally land on the island. Teo is totally obsessed with the life jackets, he believes they’re the funniest and most interesting thing of the excursion.
Four hundred steps in front of us. Kids on our back. We start climbing and people around us cheer: “Wow! So athletic! Congratulations!”. The audacious and flattered side of me is my motivation to get to the top. “Ohhh, it was easy like a walk!”. The tourists are lined up in front of us, making the walk easier and slower. We are in a queue. We take some pictures trying to contain Teo’s sudden enthusiasm for basketball. There must be not more than 10sm of walkable area on top of the mountain and he decides that it would work as a basketball court. “Mom, I basketball!”. “Teo, it’s not going to be that easy to find a basketball court here”. “Mom, but I basketball!”. Ok well, at least it’s not golf.
We climb down. This is the real challenge. Teo is with me and climbing back with two littles is really tough. My calves are training hard. There’s a lactic acid fiest in my body. But we can do this. At the end there’s also a beach where we can have a bath… we can definitely do it. ;)
Back on the boat, we wish we could stay longer and find out more about the hidden spots on the Island, but our hearts are filled with joy already. Looking outside the round windows of the boat we notice that we’re moving far from the shore, our farewell to this incredible experience.
Tomorrow we won’t jump on a metro and we won’t eat a baguette. This is not a dream, this is real. We did it. We visited the Halong Bay!
With a Lot of Love - #miljiansgotovietna
Thanks to Paradise Cruise and all the staff of our Paradise Elegance for this beautiful moment together. You are the best.