The bus was early for Asia, only 10 minutes late. A little less than 4 hours later our bags were being tossed from the bus and loaded up on the boat, The Paradise Privilege, our home for the next 3 days. There were only 2 other tourists sharing the boat with us, an amazing couple from Arizona, Heidi and Dan. Dan was in a wheelchair, this was my first time ever spending time with someone bound to a chair. It was a very beautiful and humbling experience. The universe reminding me once again of how lucky I am, we all are, even for the ability to take a step. Getting on and off the boat was a big challenge for him, but he kept such a positive attitude.
The first day out we went to Sung Sot Cave, it’s an easy walk up about 50 stairs to the first cave, of three. The caves all had florescent lighting and our guide pointed out the different formations that had been named by locals years ago. The first cave you enter is the smallest and they get larger the deeper into the mountain you go. There’s an observation deck at the end of the third cave that over looks a small part of the bay, but with the heavy mist I couldn’t see much.
After the Sung Sot Cave we continued on through the maze of Halong Bay. It was so misty visibility was low, but so majestic. We anchored by Bo Hon Island for our first nights sleep, close to Titop Beach. We weren’t in the area where all the boats were though. We were 10 minutes away from the congestion of all the other cruise liners, anchored in a spot with only other Paradise cruise boats.One of my favorite thing about our room was we had windows on both sides of the boat, so you could see right through it, made for some pretty good lighting.
Day 2. Said good bye to Dan and Heidi and were put on a different boat for the day. Went to Vong Vieng Floating Fishing Village, 1 of the 7 floating villages on Halong Bay. I learned some interesting facts. The government had recently taken 150 local Vietnamies from this village and made them move to mainland Vietnam. There’s now over 2000 people living on the water in Halong Bay and because of pollution in the water the government is actually having to step in and house these water inhabitants on the mainland.
Plus the schools- well classroom, is one teacher teaching ages 7-13 so education is suffering majorly. The classroom at this fishing village was tiny, size of my bedroom, composed of 6 desks and one chalkboard. There was a donation box at the entrance; Dylan and I dropped a few bucks in. We also learned that the one other door in the classroom led to the teachers actual bedroom. One teacher will work at the school for about 3 years then move.
Hui, our guide, told us its so important for the locals to learn English. He was 26yrs old, married with one baby and has never been out of Vietnam. I asked him if he could go anywhere in the world where would he go? He said, “Anywhere far away.” “Anywhere?” I questioned him. He replied with a simple but certain nod and said once again, “Anywhere”.