Whenever I think of Halong Bay, it makes me smile for different reasons.
Living in Hanoi at the time, my family and I were finally planning to spend a weekend in Halong Bay, a truly stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is known for its over 1600 small islands of limestone pillars and Karst landscapes. I am not a geologist, but I do appreciate a spectacular scenery.
So, we did some research and got to book our No. 1 choice, a fairly big and well-equipped cruise ship that would provide adequate facilities and space for our kids. However, upon arrival we were told that due to overbooking they wouldn’t be able to accommodate us. As an alternative, we were offered room on a small dhow. This wasn’t at all what we had anticipated, but heading back to Hanoi was not an option either. Well, we figured we should be able to handle one weekend in a confined space. After all, this traditional looking dhow was quite unique and even comfortable looking.
By the time we were ready to get moving, two young couples had joined us, thus reaching the boat’s limit of 8 guests.
So off we sailed, taking in these breathtaking views. This by itself would have been quite enough to enjoy the trip but taking our kids kayaking and paddling through a cave, was an adventure of its own and lots of fun. A hiking trip on top of one of these little mountains not only gave us another opportunity to move, but also to enjoy more breathtaking views. Back on ship, we jumped off the boat and cooled down in the Halong Bay waters.
As the sun went down, our dhow anchored in the bay area. Dining tables were set up as far from each other as possible, probably to give a little privacy. As the evening proceeded, small talk started, and we ended up pushing all the tables together for ease of conversation. One couple shared their only bottle of wine they had managed to bring along from their South African home. The newlywed Spanish couple shared a cake which the cook on board had managed to surprise them with. Lots of laughs and great conversations filled the evening – not only for the grownups, but the kids as well.
Who would have anticipated this? A weekend with complete strangers in this space constricted little dhow turned out to be one of the most memorable trips. Something, even our girls remember to this day. Away from computers and mobile phones, engaging with complete strangers while being active and enjoying the great outdoors!