Friday was the day of my trip to Halong Bay. A group of 20-odd young'uns gathered in the early morning drizzle outside the backpacker's hostel, of whom at least half were severly hungover having been to 'snake village' the night before (where you kill, slice open, and eat the still-beating heart of a snake, before drinking it's bile and frying the rest of it up!) I'm pleased to say I wasn't one of them!! UGHHHH!! The three hour bus ride to Halong City passed in sleep, groans, and card playing, and a stop-off at a ceramic warehouse... incase we wanted to buy a large urn?!
I was expecting a bit of a scruffy boat, but when we dingy-ed up to a beast of a junk with sundeck, loungers, and beautiful bedrooms with hot water en suites, I was more than pleasantly surprised. For the first few hours we sailed out among the very impressive limestone rocks of the bay, it is truly stunning and a definate must-see for anyone travelling in this neck of the world. Had a lovely fresh seadfood lunch, and some people started on the beer, not me! I have to say I wasn't particularly looking forward to the kayaking part of the trip, having never done it before and convinced I'd show myself up and knock myself out with the oar or something. Luckily I teamed up with a lovely Swedish girl called Johanna and off we went, so far so good, didn't concuss myself or anything. It was much easier than I expected, and we kayaked through caves, into lagoons, and around the mountains. It was pretty hard work though and after we were about half way through we started falling behind a bit and really had to put our arms into it... more later on that!
Back in one piece on the junk, though achey and very very wet, it was time for jumping. Normally I'd wimp out at such things but my time in Vang Vieng had filled me with confidence, so off the top deck I went... alone though as Johanna didn't jump on the count of three! Had a lovely relaxing swim in the beautiful waters, a sunbathe, and lots of fun on the deck. De-bikinied and got ready for another scrumptious seafood feast, and then the beer guzzling began... I paced myself. Had a great time getting to know everyone, lots of good-looking Brits on board which made a nice change.
Come about midnight we gathered in for a story from one of the guys about our kayaking trip. Turned out that whilst me and Johanna were navigating ourselves through a tight cave, the two guys in the kayak behind us thought it'd be fun to rope onto the back of us... then two more onto the back of them, and then two more on top of them!! No wonder we found it tough work, and the girls were speeding along beside us, whilst we were totally oblivious and just convinced they had a better technique than us, unsure why they were in fits of giggles. Obviously the boys found it hilarious that we didn't think to look behind us once, and when we kept taking rests and complaining that we were so far behind everyone else, they were equally surprised we couldn't hear them laughing. Looking back I did wonder how three kayaks got on our tail so quickly towards the end when I thought we were the last. I got a stitch from laughing so much, Johanna went for payback and some slapping took place. I got payback in the form of a massage of my achey arms and back, and they voiced their admiration of our strength in pulling six big lads along behind us for about 2km!! Fun times :)!
Not long after that it was decided jumping time was upon us again. It was even more fun in the dark, sporting multicoloured sombreros. Naturally there were those who deemed it wise to go skinny dipping... 'white dolphins' as Dean our drunken guide dubbed them. Then came the drinking games. Much fun was had by all, as well as a very late night. I wish I'd realised before 4.30am how comfy the beds were, as by then I only had three hours in it before our breakfast wake-up call. Not many showed the next morning, understandably. We spent the morning on deck nursing heads and had our last lunch together... during which I realised just how over-tired I was as came out with some cracking lines!! Then the group split as most were staying another night on Cat Ba Island, but I had an overnight bus to look forward to instead. Teamed up with some lovely guys from Devon, and I managed to end up sat next to the one with nice comfy broad shoulders for the three hour bus journey back. Not that we slept much, crazy honking driver that we had.
Only had an hour to kill at the hostel before my bus, during which short period of time I managed to rest my rucksack against the bright blue wall, having not noticed the 'wet paint' sign. Ah well, gives it character.
Next stop: Hue (pronoured Phwaaaay)