Happy Birthday to Grace!
I'm sure far too much money will be spent tonight, but at least we've got an excuse :)
So, Halong Bay. It was a nice place, the boat we were on was surprisingly nice, we had our own twin room- for only the third time since we've been away. The only drawback was that there was no light in the bathroom, which meant showering in the dark- it's a good job I brought a torch! There were 16 people on the cruise and only one other person was British, but luckily everyone speaks English so we didn't have any problems.
We sailed through the bay, looking at the rocks and stuff, it's good but they refer to it as a 'wonder of the world' which it really isn't. We went into a cave full of stalagmites and stalagtites where all the signs said 'Do not climb' and 'Do not scratch into the rock'. Grace climbed. Back on the boat we did a bit more sailing and then got into a little rowing boat where we got rowed around by a Vietnamese woman. We went through a floating village, which is literally houses just floating about, you'd have to get in a boat to go visit your neighbour! It all looked pretty incredible, especially when we ended up in a little place where there was just silence. The setting could easily double for an evil lair in some kind of action film. We saw a 'school', which apparently $5 of our fee goes on, but from the state of it, I highly doubt that. We returned once again to the boat and it came to a standstill in the middle of the ocean. The tour guide said that we could swim here and one of the guys just stripped off and dived in, another followed him in. We went to go get changed and ran back up to the top deck, after about a minute of counting "1, 2, 3 JUMP" we finally did it. The current was pretty strong and we found ourselves swimming but not getting anywhere, although we managed to swim over and climb back up to the boat. Although, the tour guide wasn't so lucky. She'd gotten in with a life jacket on and couldn't appear to swim, she kept getting swept back by the tide, getting further and further away. In the end 2 people on the trip had to jump back in to go and rescue her!
That night we ended up jumping over to another boat which had stopped next to ours as it looked more fun. We played cards and drank beer, I lost one of the games and had "Donkey" written on my arm for the next 24 hours. The next morning we went kayaking. I've never been kayaking before and neither had Grace, so for a first attempt I don't think we did too badly. We got incredibly wet but didn't capsize! We very nearly got run over by massive ships a couple of times though. The rest of the trip was spent getting back to the bay and waiting for a minibus to come and take us home. There was a bit of a kerfuffle with this and Grace and I ended being shoved in a taxi and a different bus to everyone else, but we still made it back to Hanoi in the end.
We're now in a new hostel, which is awesome. Between 7 and 8 they give out free beer and put playing cards on the table. Last night was spent getting rather drunk and playing blackjack and poker before going out into the city. We ended up in a bar which had a free pool and foosball table which was pretty cool. At some point during the night a load of police came in and shut the place down, we went to get some food from teh place next door and by the time we'd finished it had reopened. As soon as midnight hit, we began celebrating Grace's birthday and these celebrations will carry on tonight, but with more people.
Today we haven't really done much, got up late, had some lunch, booked some cool things to do for the next few days and got in one of those bike things where we got peddled about the city for 50p!