Earlier this week, I spent two nights on a junk in Halong Bay – Vietnam.
I was a little nervous, to say the least, to board the one year old vessel of roughly 29 meters in length and seven meters wide, in light of the tragic accident in the same area earlier this year.
However, the crew was absolutely fantastic. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome and safe and made sure our air-conditioned cabins had everything we could need. They went above and beyond to prepare numerous courses on the boat, at every meal and provided impeccable service at every opportunity.
But it was the spectacular sights that really won me over.
I realised then, that I was about to embark on something you might experience only once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.
I spent a great deal of time in my favourite spot on the quiet upper deck on one of the sun lounges, as the junk pushed its way through a blanket of thick, humid air, and through the most stunning limestone karsts I had ever seen. Never-ending pillars and islands that had been resting in the warm waters of the bay for millions of years, like giant turtles and hunched-over camels wedged in the ocean floor.
The lonely beaches and lagoons, only reachable by kayak or rowboat, where no one would find you apart from a fisherman from the local floating village or the eagle circling high above your head.
And the forgotten caves that we visited every day by kayak, where the remains of prehistoric creatures are still visible in the layers of rock where they had found their final resting place. This is where we had yet another spectacular dinner, on the last night of our stay.
And as our trip was coming to an end and I was soaking up the last bit of the extraordinary, I heard someone say: “If I live to be a hundred, I will never be able to top this experience.”
He was right. I must have pinched myself a dozen times.