Most people I meet when I travel are surprised that I am American. They aren’t surprised that I am American I guess but rather that we, Americans, are traveling. It is much more common to meet Europeans traveling through South East Asia or Australians but very rarely Americans. It is especially fun this year to meet people from around the world and talk about American politics (specifically Trump). Anyway I will explain more about this in a bit.
This morning we woke up at around 6:30am to get ready for our departure to Ha Long Bay. We are doing a one night/two day tour of Ha Long Bay on a small ship which in Vietnam is called a junk – yes we had a lot of fun alluding to all the dong (Vietnamese currency) we are spending on this junk. The tour providers pick us up at our hostel and drive us about three and a half hours from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. Before we departed we needed to do some planning for the rest of the week. We knew we would be out of touch for about two days and we wanted to have trains and buses booked before getting on the overnight boat.
Our hostel helped us plan the next couple of days and the plan right now is to do Sa Pa followed by Hoi An and finally end in Nha Trang. After consulting with the hostel and figuring out prices and timing, we were off!
The tour we booked happens to be extremely swanky and we got picked up in a really nice van with suede lining, leather seats, USB plugs at every seat, and Wi-Fi. Crazy stuff. We drove about half way and then took a short break at a rest stop. Remember when I said all that stuff about Americans not traveling? Well… We get to the rest stop and a few other vans pull up who are also going to be setting sail on the junk with us. Everyone gets out and starts walking around and David bumps into a couple guys he works with at Goldman. Total coincidence and it turns out they are similarly switching jobs/roles at the firm and just planned this vacation. That was funny and weird but honestly is nothing compared to who ran into next. As David is walking around he sees someone who looks vaguely familiar but he couldn’t quite figure it out. She recognized him too and they figure out they are both from LA and then they realize they are both from the valley so she naturally asks him where he went to high school… and low and behold she works as a teacher at our old school.
David’s mind is blown at this point so he comes over to tell me and Tamir since the three of us went to school together. None of us had her as a teacher but we get to talking more and figure out that two years ago Jacob was in her English class! She also knows our Uncle and some cousins. We are still hyped about it because it feels so random and fun to be on the other side of the world and run into people that you kind of know. All of this to say that I was explaining the coincidence to a few other travelers from Switzerland and they assumed all us Americans traveled together (which would have made a lot of sense) but they all really enjoyed the story.
It took us about the and a half hours to get to Ha Long Bay. It was pouring rain when we got in which was was a bummer. We boarded the boat (sorry junk) and checked into our rooms and had lunch. The accommodations are like a five star hotel it’s actually insane. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. The rooms have huge windows that look out onto the bay. They also have awesome bathtubs which dispense same water and fresh water…I mean come on. The lunch was a legit five course meal and all the food has been incredible. I was feeling really nauseous and sea sick during lunch so I went down and took a short nap. At 3:30 we left to go kayaking and the rain finally cooled down. It was still overcast and cloudy but so insanely beautiful.
David and I shared a kayak and Tamir and Shosh shared a kayak. We spent about an hour going around the islands and in and out of small bays. We got some really great pictures and we docked our kayaks on a small beach and swam around a bit.
We then got back on the junk around 5:30, showered, and relaxed before dinner. I went up for dinner but was feeling super sick and so I ended up just going to bed pretty early and sleeping almost 12 hours. Tomorrow we are exporting caves and then sailing back to shore before taking the van back to Hanoi.