Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ha'Long Bay day 2

Each morning there was a tai chi class on the upper deck at 0700. I loved doing tai chi when we lived in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1994; but knew better than to attempt this class. The master instructor had wonderful balance. I could just see me attempting to stand on one leg while holding the other leg up backwards up over my shoulder and bending forward 90 degrees at the waist. The class participants probably thought they were doing something similar to the instructor but it was a laugh watching them from the sidelines. I did not embarrass any of them by recording video of these classes. After tai chi breakfast was served buffet style. Western style foods were offered as well as traditional Vietnamese rice noodles with broth and usual leafy accompaniments and a variety of fruits and yogurt. Something for any taste.

After breakfast we motored to another beautiful spot for kayaking. Sorry, I have no idea of the names of the various locations or islands that we visited. The islands of Ha'Long Bay are so numerous and so similar that it is impossible to know where you are. Electronic charts would be a godsend. There are legends of how people could get lost in these islands or hide from authorities and never be found. Also stories of how people would get lost in the maze and die of thirst when they could not find a way out.

Kayaking was fun. Started out fine but soon Bill was critiquing my paddling. He should know better than that by now. So I sat in the forward Princess Seat and held my paddle out of the water until he wore himself out and decided it would be a good idea if I started paddling again without comments. We did not bring a waterproof camera on this trip, so have no photos of the kayaking trip. But the scenes were fabulous.

The tour director led us through several bays and even through a low 'cave' where there was barely sufficient water depth for a kayak to float. After an hour or so my knees and hips were hurting so much that we thought it best to return to the mother ship. Supposedly there were foothold places in the kayak, but I never found them. Bill found the rear footholds and was lounging back comfortably. But my legs were forced straight forward and could allow no bending and with my back straight up. Try sitting in a 90-degree position with any relief movement for a solid hour, not to mention the slight body twisting motion of paddling. This began to hurt terribly and I knew that if we didn't get back soon that I would have a terrible time getting out of that darn kayak. As soon as we left the group and paddled back to the mother ship, another couple of kayaks followed in our wake. Guess no one wanted to be the first one to give up. Heck, I'm not proud. Didn't mind being the first quitter. Glad I was able to do this at all.

We went up on the sun deck and enjoyed great bloody mary drinks and visited with the guests who had stayed aboard and watched the remaining kayakers as they paddled to a nearby beach before returning to the ship. This day was much less gray and dreary than the previous day; still not sunny, but a vast improvement. The views were simply spectacular in every direction.

Next was a 7-course lunch. Wow; does this company feed their guests well!

After lunch we motored to another location and visited a cave. Don't remember the name of this particular cave. Bill was too cold and opted to stay on the junk. It really was cold on the tender, but once ashore and out of the wind the temperature was comfortable. We walked up a lot of steps to the entrance to the cave. The cave entrance is the dark area in front of the boy wearing the dark jacket. Not exactly made for tall people! The first cavern room was relatively small and somewhat meandering. The cave path led upwards. I could see that the ceiling was very low ahead and would require 'duckwalking' to get through. I inquired and learned that this low section was only about 25 feet long and then it opened up into a large room. Uh, excuse me. I had asked about low ceilings inside the cave before we left the mother ship (guide info warned of this) and was told that ceiling height was all okay for normal height people.

Sorry, but I am not duckwalking 25 feet; 3 or 4 feet maybe, but not a length of 25 feet. My bad knees would never allow that. During the time we have been cruising I have injured both knees and neither will ever be normal again. The stress of walking in that position would hurt too much and cause weeks or months of recuperation. So I balked and told them I refused to go any further and would backtrack to the entrance and meet the group when they finished the rest of the cave. Another woman joined me. Her husband continued on with the group. Later he said we had made the right decision because not only did you have to duckwalk 25 feet to get into the second cave room, you also had to duckwalk 25 feet on the other side to get out of that room. And then you had to climb up a very steep rock wall pulling yourself up with a rope. Glad to missed out on that fun. Besides, we've seen a lot of caves and I figured there was no way this cave would compare to the Waitomo Glow Worm caves in New Zealand; so it wasn't a big loss.

Back to the junk and another couple hours of motoring to the anchorage for the night. It was dark when we arrived at the anchorage. It wasn't until the next morning that we realized we were back at the first place we had the 427 step observation place with the beach. That evening up on the top deck I counted 34 junks anchored nearby....and that was only within one bay. There were at least another dozen anchored on the other side of one of the islands.

After another great buffet dinner the movie entertainment for the evening was "Indochine" with Catherine Deneuve. We had not brought any books to read and the only other entertainment was to play board games, so we opted to watch the movie since it was too cold to stay on the upper deck and visit with other guests and the main saloon was being used for the movie. The movie for the first evening showed how the USA screwed Vietnam and the movie for the second evening showed how the French screwed Vietnam. Not sure which country was worse.

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