We started our morning at the restaurant Pho 24 slurping a hot bowl of soup and a coffee. After breakfast, a mini-van full of people picked us up and we drove to Ha Long Bay. Although the drive was long…just under 4 hours, it was nice to stare out the window watching the countryside as the Vietnamese went about their day in the fields. There were people and bulls plowing the fields and we noted the pointy rice hats most people were wearing to protect them from sun and rain.
Once we arrived at Ha Long Bay, the area was covered with tourists and many old classic wooden boats loading people onboard. There were about 12 of us who hopped on a small boat to bring us to our “cruise boat”. The boat itself was definitely old but our tiny room had a double bed and bathroom…this was not exactly the Norwegian cruise line. The whole boat was made of wood, the top deck was for viewing…there were lounge chairs but the weather was pretty cold. The main floor which included the dining area was where our room was, and the front of the boat was a small viewing deck with some little couches.
Once everyone was settled in, we all sat down in the main room for lunch. The boat was cruising along the bay between small islands and limestone formations of various shapes and sizes. This bay is a Unesco World Heritage site and with the fog sitting over us…it was eerily beautiful.
After lunch…we arrived at Hang Sung Sot which was a huge cave covered with rock formations inside. We climbed through staring at the walls and ceiling, it’s amazing what nature can do. They had some neon lights as they did in the China cave to highlight some areas in the cave. We got back on the boat and watched from the outside deck as the scenery passed us by. It definitely reminded us of the Li river cruise except this was a bay so we were surrounded by the mountains. The little boats were so picturesque sitting with the mountains behind them. We took many pictures…it was so beautiful and calm outside the only issue was the pollution. In fact Unesco has threatened to take them off the list if they don’t clean it up. There are many boats full of tourists which is causing oil pollution but the major problem is the locals who live there…they use the bay like a garbage can. We saw it firsthand, our cruise boat anchored for a bit while everyone went out on canoes. As we paddled through the floating houses, we saw how filthy the water was with things like wrappers, dirty diapers and bottles floating around…it is such a shame.
It was sort of bitter-sweet to see people treat such a beautiful place like that…either not realizing or not caring that they were literally polluting their own homes. It was fun to be in the water on the canoe, we were able to really go close to the floating houses and peek in to see some of the locals. The houses were basically little shacks built on a docks. Much like street vendors drive a cart full of food to sell in the streets, women had small row boats full of snacks and would float around trying to sell their goods to both locals and tourists.
After spending about an hour in the canoe, we got back on the cruise boat and relaxed for a bit. We ate dinner which wasn’t the best dinner we’ve ever had, and then went into our room to watch a movie. We had to get up super early so intended on getting to bed early but karaoke was going on in the main room…which was right outside our door. Imagine really bad drunk karaoke singers in a bar…now picture yourself stuck on a boat with them…there was no escape.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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