I arrived in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam with surprising ease. A sleeper bus to a taxi, taxi to a ferry, ferry to a bus. It sounds like a lot, but it was worth it to get to a place like this. I stepped off the bus into Cat Ba Town, an incredible little town on the south end of Cat Ba Island that acts as a gateway to the bay filled with floating villages and fishing boats.
I immediately booked a two-day, overnight tour with Asia Outdoors, a company I had read about before ever leaving the states. The first day we departed into the bay and sailed passed giant limestone karsts erupting out of the teal green waters. Some were spotted lightly with green foliage while others look like mini jungles.
After anchoring in a cove, we took a long boat to Moody Island. I was giddy with excitement as I was about to do what I came to Vietnam to do, rock climb. I couldn't wait to try new routes and a new rock surface. The jagged limestone provided more hand and foot holds but left us with some additional scrapes and bruises. The incredible view of the bay was our reward for climbing 40+ feet to the top of the routes. When I wasn't climbing, I collected shells, snapped photos, and took solitude in the quiet beach.
I had heard about the bioluminescent plankton that can be activated when disturbed in the bay. After anchoring in open water, we hopped into kayaks and paddled toward the karsts. Hugging them closely at the base, I looked up in awe of these massive formations. It was surreal and humbling to feel so small next to them. I stuck my paddle in and pushed it back and forth, illuminating the plankton like glitter in the black water. Later, I'd jump off the boat into the bay and watch the tiny plankton light up and glide off my arms as I raised them out of the water. I laid on the top deck, dreaming of the next day on the bay as the boat rocked me to sleep under an orange moon, surrounded by immense shadows.