Saturday, December 29, 2007

HaLong Bay #1

(Sorry for the delay...we have so much to report, we'll have to break this up into a couple of posts.)

Yesterday was truly a day we'll never forget! Visiting HaLong Bay was the only thing (other than getting our girl) that I REALLY wanted to do while were here in Vietnam. I just had no idea how truly magnificent this natural wonder is!

Unlike our other bus rides, which were limited to our travel group, this tour was arranged through a travel agency we booked at our hotel. We board the bus at 8:00 and so excited to see it is comparable to the previous buses we've used and fits our three families nicely. All is well...and then we begin picking up additional passengers. The bus quickly becomes crowded and we're anxious to be on our way and get out of town to begin the 3 1/2 hour ride. Then we stopped at a youth hostel and picked up "Druggie, Stinky, Sleeper Girl" who proceeded to pass out, taking up the entire backseat (4 spots). We now have 22 on a bus that hold a max of 25. We are using the fold down seats in the aisle and we are crowded. (I should also mention that these seats are not designed for American frames either...I am spilling over the side and my knees rub the seat in front of me.) But...we are on our way and excited about our adventure.

About an hour in, we stop for a break. We are so excited to see Western toilets...nothing else matters! Druggie, Stinky, Sleeper Girl has to be roused and kicked off the bus for the break. She is dazed and confused. It was a busy rest spot and the babies are a big hit with the other tourists. We are hopeful DSS Girl gets lost and we have extra room for the rest of the ride, but our diligent guide gets her back on the bus and we are off.

We marvel as the landscape begins to change and we see, truly for the first time, much of the classic scenery we have been missing on our trip. Water Buffalo in the fields, large fruit and vegetable stands, and masses of uniformed school children (even on Saturday) riding home from school. The traffic is still thick, but nothing like we've previously experienced. And, either our driver is more patient than when we returned from Can Tho, or I've some how accepted the fact that my kids are unrestrained and every pass is a "near miss."

We begin to see the mountains and an increase in hotels. We arrive at the entrance to the bay and disembark from the bus. That is, everyone except for DSS Girl. Just before the bus drives away, our guide realizes he is missing one. He boards the bus and yells at DSS Girl and she emerges...still dazed and confused. We are happy to learn that she is boarding the overnight boat (yea, more sleep for her!) and we part company.

The boats are packed into the shore. Scores of "junk boats" are loading tourists. We are led to a boat; I descend the steps to board. We are safely aboard, no problems. And then, I am directed down the SKINNY walkway on the side of the boat. It is so narrow; I am almost forced to side step. At the end, we must climb up to the next boat! Baby girl is strapped to my chest, I accept a hand for stability and climb up to the next boat and then I realize...I gotta do this a few more times! We finally make it to our boat and settle into the cabin. Already, the experience is incredible. We are boxed in on all sides by boats and the exhaust fumes are very strong. As if on cue, they all begin to inch forward. There are shouts, little bumps and larger collisions as all the boats work to make their way free at the same time.

WB and his daddy head up to the top deck to take pictures. DG and I stake our claim to a table in the main cabin. It is pretty chilly outside, so sister and I enjoy the view from the surrounding windows. I am startled by a knock on my window. "Madame, you buy fruit." As you'll see from the photos, small boats filled with families peddling fruit are working the docks. The elders motor up to the junk boats and the kids quickly jump off, climbing onto the deck and forcing open the windows to sell their fruit to tourists. This happens three or four times before we are safely out into the bay.

I can't even tell you how wondrous this place is. Our pictures will surely not do it justice. Whoever picked the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World", certainly never made it to HaLong Bay for it should qualify on its uniqueness alone.

(Now I'll work on the slide show and installment #2.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Dears: It sounds like a grand experience. I amso glad you got to do this. Happy baby girl and WB were ok with the trip. Can hardly wait for the pictures. Hurry home!! Mom

Nanny said...

John, Leigh, Walker Booth, and Dori Grace,
We so enjoyed hearing about your latest journey. In choir today before church, I asked for prayers for you all and your safe return to OKC. Bob was sitting next to Mark McWhinney and he told Bob, I work with Leigh. I had forgotten that. You now have our choir praying for your safe return. Would it be o.k. to give Mark this blog address? If you don't want that's fine, but thought he'd enjoy hearing about your travels.
The pictures are wonderful as well as your detailed words. We missed hearing from you yesterday, but today made up for it. I can't imagine how busy you all are, but still make time to keep us updated and informed. We can't wait to see you all. Love, Mary and Bob
(Nanny and Papa)

Adoption Timeline

  • 01/01/08 - Home at Last
  • 12/24/07 - G & R
  • 12/18/07 - Travel
  • 12/7/07 - Travel Packet/VISA Authorization
  • 12/06/07 - I-600 Approval
  • 11/16/07 - I-600 Received for Review
  • 09/26/07 - Referral
  • 03/23/07 - Log in Date
  • 02/23/07 - Dossier to Vietnam
  • 02/08/07 - Dossier to Agency
  • 08/08/06 - Switched to Vietnam Program from China Program