Anyways, if there is one place Vietnam is famous for, it must be Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a world UNESCO sight and currently competing to be one of the "New 7 wonders of the world." The magic of the bay lies in the thousands of rock karst formations admist the emerald ocean water. Having come back, I must agree that it is an absolutely beautiful place. Take a look for yourself!
We decided to go with a tour for this trip to Halong Bay and then be dropped off on Cat Ba island, a great weekend getaway destination. We cruised through the famous rock karst formations in Halong Bay, had a seafood lunch on the boat, went kayaking and swimming, checked out a cool cave, and then relaxed on the roof of the boat cruising the emerald waters and watching the world go by. We were then treated to a seafood dinner as we watched a beautiful sunset on the waters of South East Asia. We shared this boat with only 7 other people, which is actually unusual and lucky. We stayed in a private double room on the boat for the night. All this for only $34 USD – amazing no?
After dinner, we went up to the roof to watch a spectacular lightning storm in the distant ocean from our boat. Each bolt lit up the entire sky in a beautiful display of power and serenity. The distance was far enough though that we didn't even hear the surely roaring thunder. Sitting in a raft boat, listening to our Vietnamese crew singing terrible, off-pitch karaoke, feeling the warm summer rain on our shoulders, and watching the lightning storm in the distance, it was a way to end the night in Halong Bay. I would never dare allow myself get soaked by the rain in Vancouver, but as I sat in that rainshower, I wondered why I had never enjoyed the rain before. I suppose these are the joys of traveling – finding appreciation in the simple things in life.
The next morning we were dropped off on Cat Ba island, the largest island found in Halong Bay. Being a mecca for outdoor excursions, we spent the next few days doing the typical outdoor activities to be found on this island – trekking, kayaking, and beaching. There is also some world-class rock climbing of the ocean karst, but it was unfortunately outside of our budget. We got the chance to watch someone do some “deep-water soloing” though, which is essentially bouldering (freestyle rock climbing with no harnesses) on a karst overhanging the ocean and using the water as your safety net. Traditionally, when a climber reaches the top, they must jump off into the ocean as the finale. We watched one climber reach an impressive height, and then jump off from a cliff that I could only dream of doing. Crazy.
Over these days, I was also planning a secret date with Sylvia for her upcoming birthday. I knew she would be expecting something, so to surprise her one step further, I did it all the day before her actual birthday. I snuck out of our hotel room that morning and had her wake up to some gentle music, a bouquet of flowers at her feet and a love letter explaining that I wanted to surprise her for her birthday, so we’ll be celebrating it today instead of tomorrow. And on her real birthday, we can do whatever it is that she wants, ie. getting fat sitting on the beach eating desserts. The letter instructed her to checkout of the hotel and rendevous with me at 9:00am. I left a bunch of love notes around the room for her to find as she got ready for her special day.
I met her downstairs outside our hotel on a motorbike and did the whole “hey baby, want a ride” thing for a while before heading off to tour the island. But first we need to check-in to a nicer place for the night. I read about a relatively secluded beach resort that offers bungalows on the beach for rent (about $15USD a night). Somehow we managed to fit both of us and our luggage on the motorbike and we dropped off our stuff in the sweet bungalow. We had breakfast and then headed off on our island tour – going inland and then following the coast back towards town. We checked out a really cool site called “Hospital Cave” which served as a secret hospital built deep into a rock during the war. Honestly, I was not expecting much, but I was impressed with the depth and quality of the concrete rooms and halls, as well as the giant theater inside this cave.
Coming back from our motor tour, we chilled on our beach watching the sunset. As nightfall came, we ordered a nice meal from the resorts restaurant. I was happy to find that we were the only ones staying on the beach in the bungalows that night. I had just one more surprise for her before the day ended. As we waited for our dinner, I told her I had to go take a shit to buy some time (aren’t I romantic?). I found a nice spot in the middle of the beach, set up a beach chair as our table, brought out my secret bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, the bouquet of flowers, and my laptop to play some dinner music. I lit some candles candles for a nice mood. I came back to the Sylvia’s table acting like I just took a great dump and asked the waitress to please bring our dinner to the beach. I blindfold my lady and carefully escorted her to our real dinner table. I’d like to think she was a little surprised.
We had our romantic dinner, and spent the rest of the night drinking our wine, having a few smokes, and talking late into the night on the beach until our candles ran out.
Love can make you do some pretty crazy things. It wasn’t easy to throw these surprises, especially since we are traveling together, shared rooms every night, and rarely spent a minute apart. But in the end, it was surely all worth it to see the smile on her face. Happy birthday, my love.
Oops, this post was supposed to be up 8 days ago. I musta dropped the ball.