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Vietnam (Day 13) Kayaking Dreams & Beach Oasis Halong Bay

After a pho breakfast of champions (I could eat pho for breakfast every single morning and never grow tired of it), we were excited to be going kayaking again. And, guess what?! The guide offered to  take Molly in his kayak.  I'm not sure if it was to make things easier for me or because he wanted to ensure her safety - hahahaha, whatever, we jumped on the offer!

I was given the only "single" kayak after being told it would be significantly less work to paddle as the only other single paddler from the day before (a more able-bodied male) took a double.  Okay, sounds good.  Smaller in length and width, more lightweight.  Wait.  Full stop.  As I slowly realized, MORE LIKELY TO FLIP?!  After being reassured with falsities like "will never flip", I entered my kayak.  Hey, not having another person in here is kind of nice.  I quickly became relaxed and ultimately, really enjoyed the solo experience.   

Today we had a longer time out and ventured way further. We saw families that live aboard fishing boats.  Toddlers ran around boat edges and here I was locking my core muscles rigid to keep from falling in.  Watching the chill kids on the boats, I became more confident.  I even boldly took my camera out of the wet-bag and held it loosey goosey taking pics.  We went through another cave and I did not get stuck this time. 

The highlight of the trek was pulling onto a small beach beneath one of the towering limestone karsts.  This was something straight out of Jurassic Park.  Nature's playground here in Halong Bay.  We docked the kayaks feeling like we had found untouched and unaffected by humans earth.  It's hard for me to wrap my head around these karsts forming so many millions of years ago.

Pirates be warned!  We left two 8 year olds behind to guard the kayaks.  The only real concern was that they would have the muscles to keep them all beached - hahahaha.  And, off we went to find buried treasure in the caves.

The guide took us through a small above water cave with a flashlight and only told us after that he had only been through it 2 times before. No wonder he had trouble finding the right opening. I joked with Rob that this is the opening scene of a lot of scary movies where the audience questions the intelligence of the tourists. He didn't think I was funny.  Anyways, he wanted to test the waters by taking only a couple guys through and of course, I raised Rob's arm for a volunteer. The rest of us hung back and enjoyed the amazing landscape playing in the shallow natural pools. 

Eventually, the guys emerged from the cave. They said we would be okay going in, but would need to be very careful as it was slippery and anything you touched was covered in sharp barnacles. Caitlin, of course, scrambled to put on her headlamp and would not be held back. I didn't really feel a need to go in, so didn't bother and neither did Molly.  I didn't think this a bad decision as a couple people did emerge bleeding from small cuts.  Caitlin came out unscathed and was super stoked having done the experience.

Meanwhile, I busied myself exploring the nooks and crevices of this amazing landscape while imagining myself a castaway pirate!

Eventually, we had to kiss this special spot goodbye and kayak our way back to the boat.  Nobody flipped their kayak and all made it safely back. It was definitely trickier getting docked though as the waves were stronger today. I was really glad the guide had taken Molly in his kayak as I was a bit nervous coming in. Luckily, since I was near last, I was able to rest my paddle (and my lame paddling skills) and use the other tied up kayaks to pull myself in along the ropes.  Whew!  All that physical exertion worked up a ravenous appetite and we were all pretty excited about our upcoming lunch.

Beach! We tendered to the beach for a BBQ lunch followed by cave exploring and kayaking (just the kids went on their own this time). 

Feast your eyes on this beach oasis! It was heavenly and we had it all to ourselves. The crew had brought the master chef and all the food for grilling first as we squealed in delight from the boat. Next, they tendered us over and we made our way down to the beach from the other side. Apparently, where the boats pull in is a "public" area and lots of boats bring people to see the cave on Hon Co Island, but the beach and where we ate our lunch is private for Indochina Junk only, another reason we recommend this company for your cruise.  We were also timed perfectly to see the caves without any other groups, but as we left the island, it was definitely getting busy with boats tendering large tour groups.  

Master Chef at Work!

I have no pics of any of the food because it was so good that I couldn't be bother to take any let alone breathe in between bites of the most delicious beach BBQ I have ever had in my whole life!  After lunch, the kids all went kayaking while the adults relaxed (and drew straws for who would go retrieve the kids if they didn't return).

Then, we made our way to explore the well-hidden Thien Canh Son cave. The views along the way from up above were stunning! At one point, we exited the cave and I thought we were done. But, the cave is so large that I did not realize it was not the same way we entered. We then went into another level of the giant cave. Amazing sight!!

Back to the boat, it was time for a proper swim! The staff stayed up higher deck on jellyfish watch duty. The jellyfish here are massive! That was enough to keep me from swimming, but the others had a blast. Raise your hand if you would have jumped in. 

Perfect capture against the silhouette of King Kong's head!

We wrapped up our last night of the cruise with another 7-course meal under the stars and full moon. Again, thankful for the pace of having 2 nights! It's really beautiful here and my pics don't even do it justice. 

Do you see the silhouette of King Kong's head!

Up Next: Floating Village Halong Bay to Dry Land Halong Bay

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