As you know from previous posts, my job often allows me to travel for work. I just returned from Halong Bay where I was treated to a fine sunset and a mysterious sunrise. The weather was a bit rainy, and so I was hoping for dramatic scenes for both the going and coming of the sun…but that’s the beauty of Halong Bay; you never know what mood she will be in and what landscapes you’ll be treated to.
The drive to Halong Bay is just about three hours from Hanoi. The journey includes a rest stop in a pottery village. There are hundreds huge marble statues and thousands of vases and pots for sale. It always makes me wonder – how the heck would I get that home if I ever did desire the growling lion or the big fat Buddha?
As we all know by now, I have a chance to travel from time to time and certainly have the need to visit our properties on a regular basis. I was scheduled to go to Halong Bay this week to work on a book project for our boat. I always enjoy the chance to be far away from the honking horns of Hanoi. What I didn’t expect, though is how hot it would be on the Bay…I had hoped to escape the heat of Hanoi, as well.
Summer in Hanoi is usually hot. And the high humidity makes for really an unpleasant season. One can only hope for rain storms, which tend to cool things down a few degrees. The weather has been hovering around 100°F and humidity sitting at about 60%. Yuck. Soupy thick air and no breeze for relief!
Surprisingly, it was about the same at shore. The breeze didn’t kick in until we had been cruising for about an hour. And even then, many passengers opted to stay in their cabins and cool down, versus the usual activity of chillin’ on the sun deck. I tried like crazy to hang out on deck, but the heat got the best of me even and I retreated to my room to cool down and get some work done. This is really too bad, as the whole point of going to Halong is to take in the views and the boat’s Sun Deck is designed specifically for that.
Regardless of the persistent melty weather, I was thankful for the change of pace and environment. Always nice to get out of the office!
The intention was to go out to Halong Bay for a site inspection for a program we want to add on our tour. The result was me strapped up in climbing gear, reaching the end of the rope with a big smile on my face.
Onslo greeted me at the pier and after hopping on the second boat, we veered in a direction where most boats don’t go. The smaller boat allowed us to get much closer to the cliffs which jet out of the water in the most extraordinary formations. Arms length away, I could easily see why this would be a climber’s playground of paradise.
After navigating through the floating village, we reached the beautiful cove where the team was set up and enthusiasts were getting intimately familiar with the limestone’s nooks and crannies, navigating higher for a spectacular view. A few minutes later, I was strapped up and Onslo was giving me a basic lesson and teaching me the commands, reminding me to relax and breathe.
When I was a little girl, our home had a nice big tree in the front yard which I just loved to climb. The one in the back was fun too, but the higher branches weren’t so sturdy and I just never gained the affection for that tree as I did for the one in the front yard. There was this one branch in particular which forked at one point, creating a perfect chair for me and the perfect arm rest. I’d get all cozy in that nook and hang out there for hours, me and the tree.
I tried to be that little girl for a few moments while climbing this massive rock, the girl who had no cares or worries, no reason to climb up, just the wherewithal that I could and it was fun to do so. And with that enthusiasm, I climbed the first bit of the cliff pretty easily, although enjoyed the reassurance from Onslo, who’s calm and encouraging voice served as super motivation to keep moving.
Then I got stuck. There was a bit of a round boulder which had just enough of a curve outward that I couldn’t see my feet. And so I couldn’t figure out which foot to step up with, nor where to put it. Onslo could see that I was “in a moment” and reminded me to breathe, that I was safe and even if I totally let go, I wouldn’t fall and that I just needed to turn my body to the right and step up, that I had to trust that my right foot would find something to push off of. A few minutes past and I finally sucked up enough courage to do so. My muscles at that point were a bit shaky, as well as my nerves, as I had gone way past my comfort zone in physicality and in height.
I’m stubborn, though, and I was not about to quit. And so I silenced the “What are you doing?” voice in my head and finished the route, reaching the top of the rope and taking Onslo’s advice to admire the view. Woo hoo!
The rest of the inspection included a tour of the island, some nature walking, and another view of adventurous people climbing up really big rocks. Separate from the work stuff, I was glad to get in touch with the little girl in me to never had fears, who never questioned why, who just skipped out the front door, and randomly, for no reason at all, jumped up in her favorite tree, swung over branches and pushed her way higher to hang out in “her” spot. My muscles may hate me today for the torture they received on that rock, but I’m so delighted with my experience, I just can’t stop smiling. It was a GREAT day!
Part of the adventure is the journey through Halong Bay. Here’s a shot of two men who live in one of the numerous floating villages. Fascinating to think of that lifestyle!
This is such an unusual occasion, I had to make a special post! Look at me! I’m wearing a dress! This was at our Emeraude’s Wine & Dine Cruise Classic. Doesn’t the dress have a nautical feel to it? Kind of like flying the cocktail flags!
Actually, I am in love with these dresses by Chula and I do believe that I will be buying more. They are just beautiful and me being the tomboy that I am, felt so girly wearing one! It was fun!
On the Bright Side,
Emeraude’s 5th Annual Wine & Dine Cruise Classic was a big hit this past weekend! I remember being in Hanoi last year at this time, staying with Kurt and Anna and hearing about this wine cruise where there is a black tie dinner, a winemaker, and such. So having sat in meetings for the past six months to help plan the event, I was more than excited!
One thing I was excited for too was the chance to wear my formal gown. I bought two from this great designer, Chula, and took both with me. I choose the one which was more suited for a cruise. Although i may wear the other one next year. In any case, I’m armed with a formal gown in the event I get asked out to a formal event!
The whole weekend was a smashing success. We started with breakfast at the Press Club, rode luxury buses out to Halong Bay and then began the cruise. The afternoon was spent at the beach and the weekend’s big moment was dinner by candle light in Drum Cave. You can check out some photos HERE. The dramatic setting of the cave made for a spectacular evening. It would take a strange person not to enjoy that kind of event. So unique and beautiful!
I don’t know yet how we will top this next year – we have our work cut out for us! The great news is, we’ve already got half the cabins reserved!
On the Bright Side,
A few other photos from the event:
One of the perks in working in the hospitality industry is that you get the occasional VIP visitor. That was the case when the McCain delegation decided to book a cruise on board our boat, the Emeraude. We were delighted to have the group sail with us. Everything went super smoothly, thank goodness. Everyone in the group commented that it was the highlight of their trip.
Here’s the press release:
U.S. Senator John McCain cruises Halong Bay aboard the Emeraude
HALONG BAY, Vietnam (9 April 2009) — U.S. Senator John McCain toured Halong Bay as a passenger aboard Emeraude Classic Cruises April 6 – 7.
McCain, who was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 election and who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi from 1967 to 1973, was accompanied by an American delegation that included Senators Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.) and Amy Klobuchar (D – Minn.).
During the overnight cruise, McCain fielded questions from fellow passengers. He and his entourage visited Surprise Cave. Like everyone else, he stood on the deck and marveled at the karsts. Several members of his delegation attended a screening of the French epic, Indochine on the Emeraude’s sun-deck after dark.
“They insisted on no special treatment,” said Kurt Walter, general manager of Emeraude Classic Cruises. “That was the really remarkable thing about this entourage, and they were very clear about it – no red carpet, no special menu. They only wanted to experience Halong Bay the way all of our passengers were experiencing it.”
When it came to dining, the 2008 presidential candidate waited on line at the buffet and served himself.
None of the Emeraude’s passengers had been given advance warning about the McCain trip.
“It was a big surprise when he walked into the restaurant,” said Walter. “You could see everybody’s eyes grow larger.”
McCain fielded questions from fellow passengers, four of whom were American. He spent the night on the upper deck of the vessel in the Paul Roque Suite.
“He didn’t ask for the suite, but we insisted,” said Walter.
McCain told Walter that the cruise on the Emeraude was his first overnight cruise on a pleasure craft. They talked about hotels in Hanoi, and Walter told the senator about a fine, new hotel on West Lake.
“’West Lake,’ the senator said to me. I landed a plane on that lake 40 years ago – on Truc Bach Lake,” Walter recalled. “Truc Bach Lake the senator remembers.”
ABOUT EMERAUDE CLASSIC CRUISES
Since its maiden voyage in late 2004, the Emeraude has set the standard for upscale passage on Halong Bay. Modeled on a paddle steamer of the same name that cruised Halong Bay from 1906-1937, the Emeraude accommodates 74 passengers in 12 superior cabins, 24 deluxe cabins and three suites. The vessel evokes the romance of the nautical age with classic architecture, polished wooden floors, beadboard wainscoting and brass fixtures. The Restaurant specializes in western fare and freshly caught seafood. Each cabin features outdoor seating, as does the commodious sun-deck up top where the crew screens a movie nightly.
Emeraude Classic Cruises is owned and operated by The Apple Tree Group, a French-owned, Ho Chi Minh City-based company with interests in tourism and hospitality, real estate and construction and import and distribution all over Southeast Asia. Its hospitality properties also include La Residence Hotel & Spa in Hue and the Press Club in Hanoi, as well as the Kamu Lodge on the Mekong River near Luang Prabang and the Villa Maly, a boutique hotel in Luang Prabang.
On the Bright Side,
On my way out to Halong Bay to visit our boat, The Emeraude, the highway was peppered with these women who sell french bread. Some sit passively as this woman in the photo, but some stand and try to wave down cars or motorbikes passing by.
With all the dust and pollution from the highway, I can’t imagine what that bread tastes like!
On the Bright Side,