kayaking and good company
On our final day in Ha Long Bay we awoke to the same gray haze, but perhaps a little less thick. It was extremely quiet and the water as still as glass. The color of the bay is as turquoise as it appears in the photos! An occasional fishing boat equipped with a motor would scurry past and the boats would gently rock in the tiny wake, then go still again. At 7:00am the engines on the little Nina roared to life and S. and I, already awake and packed, hopped aboard the Pinta. As soon as our feet had touched the deck our "bedroom" pulled up anchor and sailed off. Breakfast was served with the same grace and skill as the meals the day before. Omelette, bacon, warm slices of bread, cheese, fresh pineapple, banana, orange, asian pear, and coffee or tea. We were motoring off to a local fishing village to pick up some kayaks and do a bit of paddling. The village had several hundred people and one school that is supported by the government and provides free education to the children. S. was still unsteady on her sprained ankle, so she stayed on the Pinta with a few other passengers. She said they had great conversations about politics, education and the fragility of the Ha Long ecosystem.
The majority of us paired up, donned life vests and carefully climbed aboard the kayaks while dangling from a ladder off the starboard side of the boat. Once in Kiem led the way across the harbor, between two towering peaks, across a channel and between two more cliffs. We discovered starfish and jellyfish along the way and too much trash to mention. But the scenery was spectacular. The tide was out further then normal, apparently an extremely low tide, so as we paddled through tunnels into more harbors and coves we would often scrape and get stuck on rock outcroppings just below the surface. We were headed towards a cave with an interior lake, but the tide was too low to get into the cave with our kayaks. We had all climbed into our boats barefoot so Kiem did not advise us to walk into the cave because of the sharp shell fish clinging to the rock surfaces. We took a brief rest and took our time getting back to the ship, taking numerous pictures and getting stuck on rocks again. It's very wet business paddling a kayak and we all climbed out soaking wet, or at least the bottom halves of us. The weather, though grey, was warm and no one complained, we all just laughed about it. Kiem, having done this plenty of times before, emerged bone dry. Once again, things moved quickly and the kayaks were taken away and we set off on our return to Ha Long Harbor where lunch was served and a birthday cake and sparkling wine was presented to us in honor of a guest who's special occasion it was. A very nice touch!
All in all I have to say that the tour was a wonderful success. A truly nice experience with the tour company. I just hope that the trash can be handled more efficiently and effectively. I would hate to see this amazing and lovely sight get ruined to the point of destruction.