After leaving Sung Sot Cave, we sailed on towards Ti Top Island. It was still cold and the empty beach looked lonesome but imagine it in the summertime! We had an hour to explore so my friends and I went up to the lookout at the peak. It was QUITE tiring! The stairs aren’t steep, but the stairway’s narrow and it’s not a short one up. It was made harder because of the slow pace set by older people walking up ahead and down too so it was hard to overtake them.
There are 2 or 3 lookout areas where you can take a break as you climb up, and at each one I became more and more excited and amazed. I powered up and was simply breath-taken literally and figuratively! Collections of islands here, lonely little islets there, a mysterious beach path through the centre of two towering limestone ridges, eagles/hawks soaring above.. it was all so beautiful and unreal. The horizon was hazy and I imagine the sunset would have been incredible from that height. We all took photos and I did my best to simply breathe deep and imprint the amazing views and senses into memory, then before we knew it the hour was up.
The rest of the evening was spent having a very generous dinner and “fruit party”, then card games, socialising, sharing golden travel tips.. the usual. I also had a jam session with one of the beautiful souls I encountered and it felt so familiar and gooood. Great end to the night, but I couldn’t sleep as usual and spent most of the dawn listening to all the wavelets and creaks of the junk boat. I haven’t seen such a pitch-black night since I went camping earlier this year around the Blue Mountains. The endless black around the boat was relaxing but super creepy.
The next morning was again chilly and we had the option to kayak (inclusive of the tour), of which only about half a dozen of us brave souls put their hands up for lol. Thanked God again for the hoodie and light weatherproof jacket I had! And prayed we wouldn’t flip into the water – my friend and I didn’t bring a change of pants.
I’m so glad I went though, I was giddy with excitement as my friend and I got into our two-person kayak. We didn’t flip over – so far so good! As we started paddling towards the karst cave opening of Hang Luon (Luon Cave) annoyance set in. There were a dozen or so other kayaks and most of them contained extremely loud Chinese tourists. What would’ve been a really cool first impression and entrance into the lake inside the island was marred.
We paddled quickly to the other side of the lake well away from the others and were able to get a little more distance and quiet, but they did still echo. When people finally started heading back we lingered for a while longer. The gentle sound of lapping wavelets and breeze and birds calling was SO relaxing. The sides of the island towered around us, so we were protected by stronger winds. The natural architecture of these limestone islands are spectacular and they float up like the giant icebergs they are.
On the way back we stopped by where the other tourists made a ruckus because some monkeys were spotted. They came back down once the tourists had left and it was awesome that we got to see them so close! We were only a few metres away from one and they were such excellent cutie-patootie rock climbers.
Once on the boat and on the way back to land we had a “cooking class” where we wrapped pre-made ingredients into rice paper sheets to make spring rolls. Back at home we dunk brittle but somewhat thick sheets of rice paper into hot water to soften them, then we put it on a plate to fill and wrap. These ones were extremely thin, almost like tissue paper, and on the plate was a damp towel that we gently pressed the rice paper on. Once lightly damp enough to be malleable, you then filled and wrapped. Filling consisted of basic vegetables like carrots, onions, mushrooms, plus eggs, glass noodles, some minced meat and seasoning. Our guide remarked at how quickly and neatly I was wrapping them (because at home the faster you wrap the more you eat lol. Koreans are Viet roll fiends – we call it “wolnamssam”)
Lunch was again a very generous spread of food that we couldn’t finish – our spring rolls were delish! We were full and content, all just socialising and playing some music – and before we knew it we were back to the pier we started off at. It was somewhat unsatisfying.. it was so cold we couldn’t make the most of the boat and deck area to experience the bay. I love water but staring out of the windows got boring quickly, it’s not the same when you’re stuck inside. But it was an unforgettable experience, one that I am so happy I was able to have and to share! If you’re not a water or boat person, still at least do a day trip to Ha Long Bay. I’d recommend at least an overnight trip though so you can see and do a little more 🙂 If I had more time I would’ve really loved to cruise for longer and visit party-notorious Cat Ba Island!