Sarah and I went big the week of October 6th, which marked both the halfway point of my RTW journey as well as my birthday. For two days we partied on a boat in Ha Long Bay with an eclectic crew of fellow travelers.
Ha Long, which means descending dragon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features around 2,000 limestone islets that are over 500 million years old. The first morning we explored an incredibly massive cave (!) adorned with the craziest stalactite and stalagmite formations you could imagine. Later that afternoon we kayaked through the islets before spending the remaining hours of daylight jumping off our boat into the bay.
We had a hilarious bunch, including a lawyer from Romania, a camp counselor from New York, a guide from Australia, an engineer from Silicon Valley, the owner of the largest air con company in Perth, a professor who teaches management in Malaysia, and a DJ who is launching the EDM scene in Vietnam. Turns out you can bond with just about anyone if you spend hours jumping off the side of a boat beneath a nearly full moon and playing king’s cup. At one point, I caught a moment of quiet with one of the women and we dove immediately into a discussion about the challenge of wanting children but also our freedom — which then led to the Ann-Marie Slaughter “women can’t have it all” versus Sheryl Sandberg “lean in” debate.
The next day we had a cooking class on board and learned how to make spring rolls…yummm.
It was so hard to leave that boat!! As we waited for our bus at a coffee shop, I was roped into trying some Vietnamese tobacco, which is traditionally smoked from a long pipe. Yes, it is just tobacco, but whooeee…likely because I don’t smoke, one inhale knocked me on my butt for at least a minute. When one of the guys offered me some tea, I was only capable of lifting my pinky finger. I have no idea how men in the mountain villages (women don’t smoke) manage this on a routine basis!
When we made it back to Hanoi, Sarah and I reunited with some folks from the boat and danced the night away. Not an hour passed before we ran into another guy from the boat! Hanoi has an 11 p.m. curfew, but a few select clubs, for reasons I won’t get into here, have worked out a 2 a.m. closing time. We tracked one down on the edge of town. And saw three more people from the boat! It never ceases to amaze me, how small and intimate this world feels while traveling.
Good night, Vietnam.