Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ha Long Bay adventure

The wave rose, its tip splintering into crystal drops. All seven colors of the rainbow were reflected in the droplets, which hung in midair before returning to the sea’s green depths, the sun was setting over Ha long Bay as my partner and I paddled our kayak against a strong current.

In some place, Ha Long’s waters lie still. In others especially those exposed to the open, the water is choppy. In place the waves rush against rocks, the water hissing as it hits, discharging plumes of white foam. There times and places where the swell was so great that even an experienced sailor would have been cowed, let alone amateur kayakers like ourselves, come from the city to try a new water sport.

The swift current inside Ba Ham Cave evoked strong feelings as we struggled to push our fragile craft through three chambers where darkness has ruled for thousands of years.

The water raced around rocks covered with razor – sharp barnacles, the current threatening to shatter our kayak against the rocks.

Ha Long Bay draws travelers who enjoy a challenge. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Ha Long’s wild scenery encourages visitors to test their strength and endurance. Alone in the wilderness, the only sounds were those of the waves and the sea birds, I left lost as we searched out spots of interest – fishing village like Cua Van Hang Luon and Hang Manh, Ba Men Temple and Ba Ham Lake…

After hours spent fighting the waves our arms were weary. We carried only a water bottle and a camera in a waterproof bag.

We were both wet from head to foot, salty spray having washed over us. In open water, we could maneuver the kayak with ease, but found steering much harder in tight channel or dark caves. Challenges included strong currents, jagged rocks, and sharp stalactites.

Steering a two person kayak requires teamwork. Both passengers must row in unison. After hours of hard labor, it felt wonderful to let our craft drift and listen to the sounds and of distant waves and seabirds.

With thousands of uninvited islands, Ha Long Bay contains countless surprises. Even today, locals still discover new caves high in the cliffs, or come upon newly – formed sandbars. Exploring Ha Long Bay, I forgot all about urban life, my mind as clear as the drops of sea spray, sparkling with all the colors of the rainbow.