Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Halong 2 The Return

So after hours of research and many painful attempts to aquire airfare out of Vietnam at the last minute we were stuck with ground or sea transportation as there was nothing in economy left out of Hanoi on Saturday or Sunday. We decided to go back to Halong Bay where beaches and beauty abound. I won't bore you with the details of the scenery as it was all talked about after our first trip. I will, however, talk about some of the differences between the two trips. We did everything the first time around. All of the excursions and treks that left us more tired afterwards than when we left. This time there would be none of that. We were looking for some hardcore R&R and there would be no mountain treks, cave hikes, kayaking or cycleing for us. It was all about the lounging, sipping cocktails and taking in the breathtaking scenery on display in Halong Bay.
We found ourselves alone for an hour or so while the rest of the folks went off to gawk at the largest cave in Vietnam. This was fine, the next stop was Kayaking, and we didn't want to do that either so we were left on the boat. The tour guide said we could take a swim if we wanted, and then took off on a kayak with the rest of the tourists.
We lounged around the boat for a little while and watched the Vietnamese staff preparing the bar-b-cue dinner we were going to have. Then the engine started up and we motored away from the Kayaking place for almost twenty minutes. We arrived at a beautiful little bay where there were a lot of big Junks anchored off the shore. The captain of the boat approached us and utilizing all of his English ability, mimed the action of swimming. Karen and I glanced at each other and shrugged, "Why not? Let's take a quick dip." We changed in to our swimming suits and dove in to the water. The water was emerald green and so warm it was barely refreshing. We waded away from the boat for a few minutes to take in the rest of the little island, when we heard the engine of our Junk roar to life once more as it pulled away from us and floated off in to the distance.
This was a troublesome turn of events as we were alone on a very small island with no money, no water and no sunscreen as we had only planned on jumping in and then getting right back out. "I'm sure they will be right back>" I announced cheerfully as Karen eyed the retreating boat suspiciously. We decided to make the most of it and go for a swim around to the other side. It was about 1 pm and close to 40 degrees with the sun a constant, scorching madman. Fifteen minutes in to this ordeal and we knew we might be in trouble. With the sun directly above us in the sky the small island offered no shade at all, so we figured we would be better off in the water. We tried to stay submerged and not expose too much skin to the blistering fireball in the sky. A solid hour passed before we caught sight of the first kayaker from our group approaching the island. We then saw our Junk returning in the distance. Needless to say, I was burnt to a crisp and would suffer from it for the following two days.
We continued on with our tour and maddeningly boring and personality-less tour guide until Cat Ba island, where we had dinner and bade farewell to most of the people we had spent the last 30 hours with and went out with a small group to an insane nightclub where all the Vietnamese adults were up on the dance floor dancing like they were disabled and they were all stone sober. We took that madness in for one drink and then fled by ourselves to a less psychologically demanding scene.
We found a nice little pub and had a few cocktails listening to much better music and contemplating our next two days. That was when a friend of ours from Hanoi walked in to the bar. Mao, from Mao's Red Lounge strolled in to the bar with some of his friends. He greeted us warmly and we all laughed about how strange it was to see each other in Catba island, many hours outside of Hanoi.
We made it an early evening as the previous two days had been a whirlwind of 6am risings and long periods of travel by bus and by boat. We had our first good night sleep and woke up at noon the next day. We spent our last day and night in Catba on the beach and then a nice dinner in a restaurant.
It was a nice break from Hanoi, but kind of stressful in it's own way. I embark now on a four month stretch 7 days a week working. After that, we will need a proper vacation, probably back to Thailand for a time. So that was our long week-end. Tune in next week when the Beaver gets a C- on his mid-term and is afraid to tell his parents. Wally tells a lie that he wishes he could take back and Ward decided that it's all just too much to bear and runs off to Vegas with a cocktail waitress.
Bye for now.

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