Today on St. Patrick's Day is a day we honor some of the writers that defined a country.
March 18, 2009
I’m relaxing on a lounge chair on the deck of the Lagoon Explorer Sailing Junk in the middle of Halong Bay, Vietnam. I’ve just re-boarded after two hours of kayaking in these remote, mystical waters.
This is an unparalleled life experience even for this seasoned traveler.
The cabins are wood paneled and spacious. We visit a floating village and venture into a cave.
We eat meals on deck under an umbrella with the jagged karst mountains rising out of the mist as backdrop. Our repast consists of tiny mussels on the half shell, a variety of prawns, spring rolls, sizzling catfish, squid in gelatinous sauce, sautéed baby scallops, and fresh fruit. Meals are decorated with elaborate vegetable carvings: a sweet potato tiger, a taro root water buffalo, a replica of our junk made out of watermelon, radish, cucumber and pumpkin sails with a charmingly misspelled carved inscription ‘Wellcome’.
Indeed, I am well come to this spot.
Ha Long means "descending dragon" and legend has it that the limestone cliffs and caves were formed when an enormous dragon splashed into the Gulf of Tonkin and lashed his tail. However it happened, magic was clearly involved.
While yesterday the cliffs were shrouded in fog, today it dawns clear and we can see layer upon layer of mountains in the distance.
The water is jade green in the foreground and slate gray in the background. The gray water is so clear it looks like a mirror. In the kayak, we are so close to the cliffs we can almost touch them. We paddle through a low opening in one of the cliffs. There is no one here. It is ethereal, other-worldly.
Signs in English all over Halong Bay City urge visitors to vote for Halong Bay as one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world. I’m sold.
What magical place garners your vote?