18 October 2013

Vietnam, Part 2: I'm On A Boat!

Tony, Jeff, and I piled into the van. We were a threesome now. (And--yes--we know what we look like in bike helmets. Safety first, good people.)

We drove and drove and drove, for what seemed like days. Through tons and tons of construction. Jeff and I were both thinking the same thing. Half a day of bike riding and a giant van ride? What had we gotten ourselves into? This can't be what we paid for . . .

Then we crossed a bridge. We started seeing these peaks coming out of the water. The landscape was changing. And there were NO tourists. How incredibly fabulous!

The van stopped in front a dock that led down to several large boats, and one little speedboat.

Tony had us get everything out of the van and load it into the speedboat. Then he said goodbye and went on his merry way. Jeff and I got into the speedboat and kind of just looked at one another. What are we doing? Where are we going? Had either of us bothered to even look at the itinerary?  What. Is. Happening.

And then the boat took off. And that was that.

We kept going out, further and further into the bay away from the shore. Peaks shooting up all around us. For about an hour we were in the speedboat. We watched the sun set from the boat. It was amazing and isolated and beautiful! Then Jeff's phone rang. It was hilarious: right in the middle of nowhere his phone rings and it was Jeremy. In no particular words, we basically said "sucks to be you man, this is incredible!" (Sorry, Jeremy.)

When we rounded one of the limestone peaks, we came upon an opening where several ships and yachts were parked--big beautiful wooden vessels. One slowly started making it's way to us. Jeff and I looked at each other like something must be wrong. That can't be where we're staying. 

But it was.

It was like a cross between being king of the world and wishing Jack Sparrow was stumbling around on deck. But more appropriately--in my head--it felt more like this (watch out, there's questionable language) . . . 

Any which way, it was about to be cocktail hour. I quickly shot some images of my room and hallway . . . Suddenly I had energy again and was raring to go!

Each night on the ship consisted of cocktail hour combined with a cooking demonstration, followed by dinner. Each morning on the deck consisted of tai chi. It was fun! A little cruise-y, but fun nonetheless.

During the day, we were taken out to explore some of the limestone peaked islands. Villages were perched on top of these isolated and beautifully green spaces. The ship had a little pontoon boat that would take us out to a bigger ship that we cruised around on.

When our little pontoon boat reached the Explorer, I heard several young voices screaming out "Ms. Bailey!" And then when I stepped onto the boat, one of my previous 3rd graders said to me, "Ms. Bailey, it's your worst nightmare." In fact 5 of my students were now going to explore with me for the day. And it was actually really great! They are all such great kids with even better manners. It was an absolute pleasure seeing them out of the classroom.

When we got to the island where we were going to visit the hilltop village, we were able to choose our method of transportation: bike or scooter. I chose a scooter. One of the locals drove the scooter up and down the side of the mountain while I held on tight. It was a thrilling ride!

Drying rice on the driveway . . . 

I bought some drinks from this lovely lady. She asked me to take her picture.

After visiting the island, we went back to the boat and they took us out to kayak around through caves. Stalactites! As we kayaked through the little caves, you could hear bats screeching from up inside the rock formations. I kept thinking, gosh if only we knew just how many bats were up there. Probably thousands! Felt like a scene from Lost Boys. The land formations were incredible.

This time when we got back to the boat, we had a giant meal prepared for us. We ate and ate and ate. I couldn't believe how much food they were bring out. And it was so fresh and gorgeous!

After lunch, the boat changed spots again and this time the crew invited us swimming. The kids--my students--were jumping off the top of the boat into the water. I couldn't believe how fearless they were! It was so much fun to watch . . . I was obsessed with taking pictures of all of the mid-air gestures. Marcus (my precocious former third grader) asked me why I hadn't jumped yet and when I told him I didn't have my suit, that it was in Hanoi, he blankly looked at me and said, "and?" Point taken, I missed out.

At the end of the afternoon, we were all taken to our separate ships and said our goodbyes. My sweet kidlets gave me big hugs and I sent them on their way. I went to my room immediately and laid down for a nap. Upon waking up, I went up to the top deck and took pictures of the sunset. It was really such an amazing adventure to be on this gigantic ship in the middle of Ha Long Bay.

But little did I know there was still so much more to come! Another full day of biking ahead for Jeff and me . . . 

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