During the four hour car journey from Hanoi to the port from which we would set sail to the world famous UNESCO heritage site Ha Long Bay, it started raining. No, that’s an understatement. The sky turned black and started throwing big, fat raindrops with the force of a hailstorm towards the ground. It was the kind of rain that I imagine ancient civilisations would attribute to unhappy gods and end up sacrificing a goat in order to appease them.Not what you want to see ahead of a 3 day luxury cruise…
As we set sail the sky was grey and threatening but, the closer we got to those world famous peaks, the lighter it grew. The water never even frothed to a foam, save for the wake of the junk boats. It seems luck was on our side!
We had booked with Jasmine Cruise (via booking.com) and had splashed out on the Deluxe Double Room with balcony, but I’m not sure we were fully prepared for how opulent it was going to be! The service throughout was exceptional; we were treated like royalty. I’m the kind of person that, up until recently, has only ever flown budget airlines and stayed in hostels and I’ll admit that I’m still not sure how to handle myself when a waiter comes and lays a napkin on my lap for me (I had, rather boorishly, been using my pashmina…). I’m sure there are a great many travel bloggers that have gone before me and have described in acute detail the itineraries of these cruises. I’m not the first to have visited the small floating fishing village, nestled among the towering monoliths, and waved to the children as their mother deftly rows us across the glassy water. I won’t be the last to visit Tien Ong Cave and marvel at the archaeological discoveries (mainly snail shells, thousands upon thousands piled high by the fisherman who used to dwell inside and supplement their diet with the little creatures). I am also 100% sure that tourists in their hundreds (thousands?) have heard the tour guides joke about the “honeymoon suite”; the only dark, secluded nook in the cave where young couples could sneak off for “privacy”. (Yep, I sniggered.)
The thing I want to remember more than any of those excursions, however, was the serenity we experienced when the sun went down, the engines turned off and we dropped anchor for the night. The only light was that of ours and a handful of other junk boats as well as the odd lamp being used for squid fishing. The sky was a deep, inky blue, reminiscent of Van Gogh paintings, and you could still make out the vast bodies of rock rising from the water. The world around us felt vast as we bobbed there in the shadowy silence. Mr LW and I spent two nights just sitting on the deck, rarely speaking, just holding hands and enjoying the moment like soppy old romantics in an old black and white movie.
It was perfection.
The morning we were due to leave for Ha Long Bay I woke to some tragic news from home: a close friend had lost her father after a long and difficult battle with cancer. It broke my heart to see those words, that he had finally passed, and every fibre of my being wanted to reach out and give her the biggest hug. He was a man that had lived a good life to its fullest potential right to the end, and he had the most wonderful family to show for it. We raised a glass in his honour on our first night, for a light that went out too soon, and I wanted to dedicate this post to him. RIP. x