A Limestone Wonder

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Before moving on to Laos, we had the opportunity to visit  one more karst and stupefying region of Vietnam – Ha Long Bay.  After arriving in Hanoi, we quickly booked our boat adventure to the other worldly destination.

Even before arriving in Vietnam, this was one of the highlights I knew of and a selling point to convince Ankur that Vietnam should be our first stop. Ha Long Bay did not disappoint and I have the dragons to thank for this karst adventure.

To assist the Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders. After winning the battle, the dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the Earth, and then decided to live in this bay.

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After a four hour bus ride and short boat ride, we arrived at our quaint ship – The Cristina Cruiser. Entering the common dining space and then being given the keys to our small yet stylish abode had Ankur chanting “Baller!”

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The ship soon started off and we rested a bit after eating a huge lunch. Gratuitous sensory stimulation was the theme of the trip.

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We quickly approached the spectacular monolithic mountains topped in thick vegetation rising above the ocean. After the rest we began our afternoon jaunt to the caves and a hike up one limestone islet.

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After visiting Phong Nga Cave park, we had low expectations for the size and beauty of the caves on the small islands of Ha Long Bay. We were immediately slapped with surprising beauty of the light filled caverns.

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Next we moved onto Ti Top Island which featured a 500-meter hike to the top. The ascent was steep yet felt great on my languid legs. The summit of Ti Top afforded a panoramic view of the surrounding islets (over 3000) of Ha Long Bay as well as a capture of the setting sun radiating the dramatic landscape.

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The view on the opposite side was mistier and hinting to a storm approaching the islands. After a short swim in the warm waters, we returned to our cruiser to beat the quickly moving heavy clouds.

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Cool gusts of wind, a light mist, and darkness surrounded us in a short time.

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The all-seeing eye of the storm. We hopped back into the Cristina Cruiser and mist soon turned into a pounding rain. Everyone on board retreated to their cabins to have a shower before dinner.

While freshening up, the sound of roaring thunder ripping through the sky shook the old wooden floors and my bones. I hastened my pace with excitement, threw on some clothes, and ran to the upper deck with my camera. Except for a couple sitting in the enclosed dining area, I was alone on the deck with mother earth who was putting on a spectacle of a lifetime…

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I was lucky enough to capture some video footage of the spectacle and the above is a still from one video. As the storm became more lively, more folks trickled up to the deck to enjoy the show.

I caught another fortuitous video which captured the sound of the storm as well as the eventual lightning illuminating the limestone islets and the sea.

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The storm eventually passed overnight and gave way to a bright yet vaporous sunrise. We soon completed our trip in Ha Long Bay and immediately wished we stayed one more day on the sea. That being said, for the 2 days we had there we experienced a lot more than expected. Vietnam continued to surprise at every corner and Ha Long Bay was not the last of our adventures in the nation.

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