After the endless binge drinking culture of Vang Vieng I was keen to detox and was hoping Vietnam would have a more sophisticated atmosphere. But after a 29 hour journey on countless buses with very little sleep, s***ty food stops, no toilet and rude Vietnamese people I was soon wondering whether Vietnam was the place for me...not to mention the cold wet weather that met my arrival. Fortunately myself and two English girls I was travelling with latched onto the plans of some other travelers we had met and headed for the most renowned backpacker hostel in Hanoi. Shattered I received plenty of "banter" for going to bed early with the aim of making the most of the next day whilst the rest of the hostel got smashed.
Within an hour I had booked a 3 day, 2 night trip around Halong Bay and was feeling optimistic that Vietnam would soon redeem itself. Unfortunately the rain continued and to put it optimistically the view of the islands on the first day was "mystical" a.k.a foggy. No matter, I wore all the clothes I owned, thankful I'd brought jumpers and my raincoat on the off chance the weather was no better than Hanoi and when it came down to it I was proud to show the Canadians on the boat that us Brits can jump off the boat into freezing cold water as well. Blue all over we kayaked around the limestone islands and explored caves which was extremely fun and made the less than perfect weather seem irrelevant. Back on board the hot shower lasted around 10 seconds and I was back in all my clothes looking pretty pale. Luckily happy hour followed and a few vodka pineapple juices soon kept me warm and along with various other nationalities we began to trade drinking games.
The next morning the people on the 1 night trip smugly left us glad to not be spending another cold night in Halong Bay. However the visibility and temperature improved considerably throughout the day and as we reached our private island spirits began to lift. A game of volleyball even broke out with the Canadian girls in particular showing their errrr competitive side...I may have got on the wrong side of them by remarking upon how manly they behave...ooops...
Soon it was time for water sports and I endured a brutal half hour of rubber tubing which was amazing but at the same time rather painful with the driver determined to get us off. After that was rock climbing. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of scaling one of the sheer limestone cliff faces of our island and managed to get to the top :D
Feeling pretty battered and exhausted another night of casual drinking and getting acquainted followed with more unusual drinking games. The night was actually warmer than the first and by the time we left the island the next day the weather had improved further allowing me to get at least a few good pictures of the Bay on the boat ride back to shore.
An overnight bus aided by some sleeping tablets brought me to Hoi An, where I set out to get a dress and a blazer tailor made, which I picked from various magazine cuttings they showed me. The rest of the day I wandered around the picturesque town becoming fonder of the Vietnamese people and bartering for several souvenirs. By the evening I had explored most of the town and went to the river where I purchased a floating lantern to add to those already floating along the river.
Finally today I rented a bicycle and cycled 5km to the nearby beach, which was extremely picturesque with vicious waves. On my way back I stopped at another dress shop and picked up some ready made dresses for cheap and then I went into town to find the legendary cake shops Lisa had been telling me about. I found one and spent a fair amount of dong on a fabulous cheesecake with a brownie base...it was delicious and basically a whole slice of cheesecake on top of a whole slice of brownie and afterwards I felt pretty sick. Hoping I would still fit into my tailored clothes after that cake I went back and tried on my designs. The dress and jacket were perfect and I can't wait to wear them on my return to England. That brings me up to date. I know many of you are wondering why I have not yet turned even the slightest shade of brown...well today I wore a t-shirt and am now sporting some pretty fantastic t-shirt and watch strap sunburn hahaha