Today was the best day of my trip so far. Instead of participating in scavenges, I left at 7am to visit Halong Bay, which is three hours away from Hanoi and one of the most beautifully depicted seascapes I’ve ever seen.
Seven years ago, visiting Halong Bay was a scavenge on the Global Scavenger Hunt, but because of our limited time in Vietnam, Bill decided not to include it. Unfortunately, it was the only thing I could think about from the moment we received our scavenge booklet—I wanted to go so badly. And we were so close to it. And I don’t know when my next visit to Vietnam will be; getting to Southeast Asia from America isn’t exactly a quick hop away.
I thought about it. I fretted. I justified. I pleaded with Mark to go. He and I stood firmly on either side of the chasm, and his rationale makes perfect sense, but I was afraid I’d really regret not going.
My friend Lauren has a Three-Time shopping rule. “Are you going to think about it more than three times if you don’t buy it? If yes, get it.” And the answer was inexplicably yes.
I know this because I told myself “no” at least six times; I went through the trouble of asking Bill (the Global Scavenger Hunt organizer) if it was a problem if we strayed from the list? He said, “Absolutely not. This trip is about you. The points are meant to be a fun incentive, but if this is something you know you want to do and might not have the opportunity to do it again, you should do it. Do the things that matter the most to you.”
The problem was that the “you” singular and the “you” plural were in disagreement.
I said okay, no. I won’t go.
But at 10pm last night, I went to the hotel concierge to ask if there was a possibility to go the next day. She found a private driver who was taking 6 people to Halong Bay, picking them up directly from the hotel, and then they’d spend four hours on a “deluxe” traditional boat in the Bay, with lunch and a visit to a cave included, returning to the hotel by 8pm. It cost slightly more than a dinner of Peking Duck from a previous challenge. I felt like I had to do it.
But instead, I said no, and I went to bed.
I woke up at 6am this morning, and I thought, “Am I really not doing it?”
And I said, “No, I’m really not doing it.”
Then I went to grab coffee in the hotel restaurant, still exhausted from the day before, and I ran into Lawyers Without Borders. They told me they were going at 7am to Halong Bay—was I planning to join them?—and it was like a sign: I had to go.
So, I changed, put my bag together, and texted the concierge who made a last-minute call, and they let me in.
It was one of the most beautiful wonders of nature I’ve ever seen. Every minute a new view unfolded that I needed to take a photo of. It reminded me of Milford Sound in New Zealand, but a much longer boat trip with much nicer weather. The food was delicious, the cave was fascinating, and I even bought a hand-stitched silk painting for $10 (I watched the women and men make them in the outlet where we stopped).
I was able to rest my feet for a day, and now I can return full-force to the competition. I’m sorry to have acted so selfishly, but witnessing the voice of creation that “goes into all the earth, its words to the very ends of the world” is something I will never forget.
“The heavens declare the glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech,
Night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard;
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
Their words to the very ends of the world…” Psalm 19:1-4
Here are some of my photos from the day, but they don’t come close to capturing the experience.