Considered by many to be one of the most scenic destinations in all of Vietnam, Halong Bay, also known as the bay of the "descending dragon," is slowly becoming the #1 site in Vietnam for those of the tourist variety. Encompassing around 2,000 breathtaking, and extremely photogenic, limestone karst mountain/islands jutting out of the water as far as the eye can see (even more impressive for those with a slight tendency for nearsightedness), the majority of those who chance the visit to these waters have a multitude of options at their dispersal. From single day trips to "booze cruises" to multi-evening excursions aboard a private 2-person vessel (for those that enjoy repeating phrases such as "this is so lovely Harold" over and over), for Julie and I, we opted for an experience somewhere in the middle, diving into our "splurge budget" for a 3-day, 2-night jaunt of "Vietnamese luxury" through one of the more highly-rated operators in the region - Indochina Junk.
Not to be confused with the dozens of other companies with names encompassing a similar how-is-this-not-trademark-infringement variation (e.g. Indo-China Junk, Indochina Junk Cruises, Indochina Junk 2) -- A common trick used endlessly around the region -- The official company with which we booked lived up to every expectation. And while many would think having the term "junk" in one's official name would indicate a status of lesser quality, in actuality, it refers to the type of vessel on which the cruise takes place (nose pointed upwards, glasses tilted downwards, slight cough accentuated). Why junk though, you may ask? Hell if I know, nothing really translates very well over on this side of the world...
Joining us on our junk-but-not-that-type-of-junk cruise for the next 3 days would be the following, unique, makeup (actual names hidden for sarcastic slander-based purposes):
Mr and Mrs Hoity McToitster - A retired Australian couple who happened to be on the slightly wealthier end of the spectrum. And by slightly, I mean extremely and overly-willing to share every detail in its regard. More on them to come shortly.
Ozzy Fam - A mixture of two Australian families traveling together, encompassing over 1/2 the cruises "landloving" population with a total of 11 passengers (7 of which were children - thankfully of the well-behaved sort). Luckily for us, the parents were quite entertaining in their pursuit to drain the bar of all available beer/liquor (we estimated a 3-day/2-night tab around $1,000 -- Ours in comparison was $50)
The Twins - A family of four from the UK, whose two identical twin teen sons may have smiled almost as often as they spoke (aka never). And that's about that on this overly-exciting group.
While our initial hopes of having multiple younger couples with which to become "buddy buddy" during our cruise were all but lost, we instead were treated to a nice preview of our lives to come, as sharing a small boat with 9 children of various ages is a perfect way to prepare for the inevitable outcome of a path along post-marriage maturity.
Onto the highlights:
Mealtime (The Company) - With the Ozzy Fam taking up the larger center table, and The Twins at one of the two 4-person seating's, that left Julie and I conveniently paired up with Mr and Mrs Hoity McToitster for each and every one of our 7 meals onboard. While an extremely friendly and pleasant couple, it did not take long for stories of glitz and glamour to be shared our way. My two favorites/most-memorable were as follows:
Mealtime (The Food) - The one beneficial aspect of listening to the details of another's overly-successful lifestyle, with only having to respond "oh, really?" as to promote a continuation of their stories, is that it gives plenty of time for one to devour whatever food may be sitting in front of their hungry pallet. And to be honest, there was no shortage of unbelievably delicious food served our way. With our smallest meal consisting of "only 11 courses, for which we apologize," each and every sitting was a culinary variety of everything mouth-watering Vietnam has to offer.
"Beautiful" - Despite being extremely proficient in the English language, our Vietnamese "tour guide" had a slight disposition towards the over-utilization of the word beautiful. With a thesaurus full of potential synonyms, not one was used as a replacement for what would soon describe almost every single thing we did, ate, saw or dedicated our other numerous senses towards. "And now we eat our beautiful lunch on the beautiful boat in the beautiful Halong Bay." (And yes, this was a real sentence). Beautifully-said.
Other Highlights - Beautiful kayak ride, beautiful cave dinner and our beautiful private beach for beautiful swim in beautiful water
Onto the pics: