While I am not the first American to be water-boarded in Vietnam, I may be the first to have paid for it. Too soon? Oh well—consider me edgy.
After a peaceful early evening of star gazing and squid fishing upon a junk boat in glass-flat Halong Bay, we were treated to light rain, accompanied by a very cool thunder and lightning storm. The next morning I awoke on my own and was delighted to see that it was only 5:50AM; I still had another hour to sleep. I rolled over to drift back into slumber and drip… drip… drip… DOWNPOUR!
“Kiera! It’s dripping on my face!” I yelled as I reached over to turn on the light. At the moment that the whole room was illuminated, the ceiling opened up as if we were on the top deck. Water dripped through every board and poured through the light fixtures, soaking our beds and bags. I was instantly wide awake and fight or flight kicked in. Unfortunately, there’s not much to fight when it comes to rain (unless you want to look like the homeless guy in San Francisco who “shadow boxes” with his imaginary friend) so I went with flight and packed up my sh*! as quickly as possible and headed to the top deck to complain. And yes, I’m swearing because I was in a special kind of foul mood.
While I did milk the story for a bit, and forced the tour guide to come down and feel my soaked pillow if for no other reason than to make a stink, there was a silver lining to the storm. The visibility of Halong’s famous limestone karsts had been quite poor the day before but the view after the storm was spectacular! As we puttered along, I was mesmerized by the scene in front of me. No wonder it’s both a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the “New 7th Wonder of the Natural World.”
An overnight stay on a boat in Halong Bay is a “must do” for anyone visiting Vietnam and we walked away from our experience with a few tidbits of helpful information. First, fight all urges to “get a great deal” online and instead book once you arrive in Hanoi; the boats are not full and we learned that some folks paid just $80 for two people (the online price with Poseidon Sail is $130 each). Second, try to get a room away from the engine room, as it’s noisy in the rear and apparently that’s where all water funnels during a storm. Third, grab a snorkel and sleep in your poncho.
I would like to close by saying that while I opened this post with a joke about having paid for the trip to Halong Bay, Chris and Katy Huntze actually treated me. They get a HUGE shout out for an awesome vacation within a vacation, regardless of the severity of the wake-up call.