Last Mystery of Vietnam (a touchy – feely, serious blog)
My thrill is traveling to a land that crawls its way into my memories and keeps getting better long after I have returned home. There is a warm, glowing spot in my heart remembering the six weeks I spent in Thailand with all its gaudy, noisy, crazy, bright colors, festivities, wonderful delights, superstitions, and religious fervor running deep in the veins of its followers and culture. There is nowhere in the world like Cambodia with the sadness of its ancient & not so distant past, with its struggle to keep up with present and future changing times, and its unmatched jungle ruins, and I will be there often in my thoughts. But it’s the magic of Vietnam, its people, its varied landscape, its resilience, and willingness to meet the future head on, no matter what, that will not diminish in my thoughts.
The title of this blog does not imply that Vietnam has a “last” mystery. Vietnam is packed with endless mysteries, some I was fortunate enough to visit and many others for another time. But to a rambling traveler such as I, everything in Vietnam is a mystery. And I could not possibly leave my ramblings of SE Asia without writing about one more Vietnam mystery, a place called Ha Long Bay.
Ha Long Bay is NOT the best kept secret. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so obviously someone else likes it as much as I. It’s visited and digested by almost any traveler to Vietnam. It’s one of the major not-to-be-missed highlights. I hopped on boat and in 15 minutes, I was completely surrounded by limestone islets, climbing out of the ocean water depths like fingers reaching to the sky. There are over 1600 islets so says Wikipedia, I didn’t count them, but they were all around me. There could be as many as 200 small cabin cruiser boats, each with the right to be there, and each with about 40 to 50 passengers.
I spent less than 24 hrs out there among the silent giant wonders, and sailed away thinking I could have stayed much longer. With tourist boats surrounding me, the place still took me to a quiet solitude, and I felt all a lone. There were no loud voices or other sounds. There was only peace and calmness about the place. It was unmolested and unpolluted by the tourist traffic, and that was strange to me how that could be. It was hazy and surreal. It was muggy and hot, but I was very comfortable there.
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Some tourists paddled their way through and around the soaring rocks on kayaks to gain a different perspective of the natural beauty of the place. Some tourists floated on their backs in the calm warm waters. There were some, as I, that sipped a cool glass of white wine on the deck and got lost in the mesmerizing view. I had no words and dreamed of nothing in particular, but for a short time, I left the present world. It didn’t matter what we chose to do that day, we all seemed small in that place. I almost felt like I could define inner peace.