(I’m just going to preface most of my posts with this, this is not a blog solely on travelling with chronic pain, but it’s one persons experience, little things you can do and arrange differently so you can make the most out of travelling the world with this condition.)
Our trip to Ha Long Bay was for sure the highlight of my trip to Vietnam. As incredible as all of the temples were the natural sites will always pull me a little more knowing that their occurrence has nothing to do with us. It was a beyond ethereal experience. This first post is about making our way there. We left our villa at the crack of dawn, and are told that it’s a good 5 hours to the harbour (dock w the boat taking us). We’re told that roughly halfway through there’s a stop point where we can use the bathroom but also have a browse in what they described as a warehouse market. What we discovered was larger and more expansive than i’d thought possible out here. As we’d been driving through very rural areas for over two hours it was like seeing a Costco in the smallest town in your country, or Tom Selleck without a mustache… just, odd. On the Chronic Pain side of things, if you have a few extra of whatever your pain meds are for these types of journeys it really will do you well, the pharmacies on this side of the world thankfully have no need for prescriptions, so if you get a few sheets of your preferred opiate to have for the journeys (along with a few pillows for your spine) it makes the world of difference. I’m in no way advocating over-indulging on your meds but if you want to travel this side of the world and experience these things your pain level will shoot up so you have to adjust your meds accordingly. On the way there my parents nodded off a little, if your going anywhere by car make sure it is a properly air-conditioned one. That way you can actually breathe easy and nap if the time allows, like these lil ones..
With that out of the way we dashed into the bathroom after holding out, and then made our way inside the market. There was such variety of things, art, sculptures, paintings, statues, tapestries. (and that was just in the first section) You could buy nearly anything and everything there. They wisely gave us a minimum of 45 minutes exploring this and told us that we could get anything shipped and delivered without having to take them with us. Which made sense as some of the marble statues were bigger than me. The variety of things you could get was endless, i will be doing a post later on on the markets in Vietnam alone, which will explore them further and tell you what to avoid.)
We crawled back into the heavenly air-conditioned bus, my family had somehow lucked out and basically got two seats each…. back of the bus bonus’. Another two hours and we arrive at the port, and circle until we come across our boat, you could call it a small cruise ship. It looked a little shabby on the outside but from the glass paneled windows you could see the inside decor was quite well to do. After sitting out in the heat with nothing but our material fans to attempt to keep us breathing, they finally announce that they’re ready to board & we take a smaller boat out to our actual boat.
Then we’re escorted to the dining hall whilst the staff put our bags in our cabins, we’re served a few mini courses of lunch. Slowly, we begin our journey, they tel us within thirty minutes we’ll be amongst some of the islands. Sure enough, i’m soon unable to remain at the table as are most of the guests onboard, we wander out to the decks to take in our surroundings. For this trip, my sister had actually communicated before we boarded the boat and asked if we could have some extra pillows for the room. To be honest every hotel or homestay villa/ regular villa we’ve stayed in I’ve gone up to an employee and asked for an extra pillow or two and attempted to communicate that i have a bad back. In every single one they sent up some, the vietnamese people came across incredibly kind-hearted and helpful. Also the views you get to see on this side of the world are nearly equal to the kinds of sights you see in films that are CGI and almost too beautiful to exist.. and yet, here they are.
aaanyhoo, we took a few pictures and videos of the night-time experience you get to see from staying the night on the boat. You can do two day, three day and even week-long cruises there. In the mornings before breakfast is served, if its not raining they do Tai Chi on the boats deck surrounded by the islands while you get centered. I’m more one for yoga but i indulged regardless and it was pretty sweet doing this light workout with the most insane views.
After breakfast we get told that we’re going to go to explore some caves in the middle of the islands of Ha Long Bay so our boat begins to set sail. Again it docks or ‘anchors’ and we get into the smaller boat once more, putting on our life-jackets (something they’re entirely anal about, understandably) and getting ready. They tell us there’s a lot of steps up to the entrance to the caves so prepare yourselves.
This is the end of part 1, I’ll throw in a little gallery here of some choice shots of the islands, there are so many and i filled up my 60 gb SD card within the few days here. Baring in mind that this post (Day 1) was cloudy and overcast and still managed to make our jaws drop…