I'm in Sapa. I feel pretty good about things although the previous days have more or less been spent treading in a psunami of Bia Hoi and Jaegerbombs. I'd go as far as to say that the past few days have been incredible.
I found Hanoi, as a city, to be less than remarkable but i still managed to hve an awesome time. Having undertaken what is widely regarded as the 4th worst bus journey ever, I felt that I had earnt my stripes and could afford to let my hair down, albeit unwittingly.
On what may have been my 3rd or 4th day in Hanoi, I met a surprisingly unannoying Irish girl who was raving about the trip to halong Bay. I booked in haste. The following events have been recalled with a level of sketchyness , aided by flashbacks and what other people have told me. If Hunter S Thompson were alive I would write to him despite the fact that he'd probably never write back. I'll settle for Chuck Klostermann though, whose books you must read as they are awesome.
After booking my 2 night getaway which included rock climbing (I'm some kind of rock climbing maverick now. Honest), I sat at the bar with little to do. As I sank my beer, watching some kind of awful motor sport (theyre all awful), the owners, one of whom I had met on a previous night out set a challenge for anyone to find spelling or grammatical errors in their new brochure. Anyone who found mistakes would earn themselves free beer. As you know, in a previous life, I was famous* for the number of amends I would gleefully cirlce with red felt tip whiilst sat at my corner desk in both Paris and Didsbury. Paris less so. I can't really speak french at all. I use this non fact to convince people that I should be bought shandies.
So anyway, I completely ripped this brochure to pieces and ended up winning free booze for most of the night. I didn't even really want to drink but I was forced into it. I made a lot of friends that evening. I remember talking to a Burnly fan about the time Richard took me to Turf Moor. I met a civil engineer with the most appalling, put on accent that you can imagine. The irish girl also reppeared. Having decided that I didnt want to eat bbq, I sauntered off down the street in search of food. by this time, I obviously poke fluent Vietnamese. I sat with a local guy and discussed geopolitics and rastafarianism whislt slurping down noodle soup. After getting back tot the hostel, I pretty much have no idea but vaguely remeber being given a bunch of Jaegerbombs. Meeting a malaysian a couple of days later brought flashbacks of trying to explain to a bunch of Vietnamese taxi drivers that my bracelet was broken. For some reason i also had no shoes. i had decided to leave them at the hostel. The next day, a guy on my trip to Halong bay had told me how I had tried top play table tennis with him and the security guard.
Considering the level of squiffyness I had reached (it's probably all speculation) I felt pretty pretty prettay good the next morning and had mnaged to get up in time and pack for my trip to Halong Bay. We had a pretty good crowd. Our guide bundled us in a minibus for the 3 hour trip and halfway through we stopped at a pottery warehouse. Whether this is seen as a genuine rest stop or you are actually supposed to buy clay products i do not know but what the f*** are you supposed to do with giant vases on a boat?
Getting to Halong Bay, I couldn't believe what I saw. Look it up on google images cos I didnt take any pictures. We had a massive junk boat at our disposal. It had a crew with a chef. There was a sun deck with an ipod deck. We had twin ensuite bedrooms. It was kind of ridiculous seeing as there were 8 of us. I didn't complain. I bunked with Ariel, a canadian girl who had been through rehab. She is wicked; one of the most interesting people I have met in a long time and so I have kind of been travelling with her since.
We lazed around on top deck in ridiculous heat. I m very dark. The food was amazing. I really like food. The breeze was shot between us. There was breeze. We baked like cakes. Some people turned into what i imagine a lobster cake would look like. I was more like a slightly underdone jamaican ginger cake. I don't know where all these culinary references are coming from.
In the afternoon, we jumped in kayaks and oared around the 3000 odd karsts that jutted out of the water. Well, I didn't cos our kayk was f***ing broken. I know what I'm talking about; I own a surf ski. our kayak wasn't weighted correctly. Despite our efforst, we went round and round and round in cirlces. our group didn't notice and so eventually we got left behind. In Halong bay, noone can hear you scream. We panicked a bit. The dutch girl I was with said that should I preish, she would eat me which made me feel nervous. It had been a good day upu until then and I really didn't feel like dying. By some f***ing miracle, we made it back to the boat. The tour guide was waiting for us. As soon as he opened his mouth, in my mind he went from being an alright kind of guy to an absolute c*** He had left us alone to die at sea. He thought we were pissing about. We weren't. We were sailing towards imminent death. i didn't argue with him. I just though about how sharp the jaws of death would have been, who would come to my funeral (if the body was ever found) and what sort of media coverage it would get. I mulled all this over jellyfish watch. As other people frollicked in the light oil slick, I would occasionally shout "clear" . I would have liked to have done it from the cows nest but there wasnt one. I wanted to be a real pirate. Neil Morrisey, a bloke from London on the boat, who was hilarious despite never being on the famous sitcom, Men Behaving Badly, said we should sink a few bots to cleqar our view of the bay and then send in Team America to save people. f*** yeah.
That evening we passed the time drinking and discussing how far you could go with banter. in a banterish way, i said tht seeing as I was British, i could do whatever the f*** I liked. I apologise if you find my sense of humour a little bit acute.
After a frankly s*** brekfast, we moved off the boat. Some people went back to Hanoi(god knows why) , some people went kayaking, and I went rock climbing. I started out like a sloth on valium but eventually got less spazzy. I crawled up the cliff faces in a similar style to that opening scene in a Mission Impossible film that i can remember nothing else from. The sun blazedd and I turned into a slightly overdone Jamaican ginger cake. On the final climb, I fell off three times. I was defeated by a f***ing big piece of rock.
We moved to a hotel on Cat Ba Islnd (which we dubbed Costa Del Cat Ba due to the fluorescent palm trees on the promenade) where Neil, Sinead(his unbelievably naive missus), Ariel and I had dinner with some people we had met rock climbing and who had some scarily deep links with Neil's family. You probably had to be there.
Early starts hurt my head. Back on the boat we made through the haze and back to port. i didn't get to sink any ships but I did get to walk a plank from the baot back onto dry land. Tired.
Getting back to Hanoi, i realised that staying there another night was entirely unnecessary so I jumped on the overnight train to Sapa .
The pictures I have taken speak for themselves I think. I'll post them tomorrow. Sapa is the s***. I havgen't done a great deal but sit around and soak up the atmosphere. You can do that without too much trouble. The people are amazingly friendly and f***ing persistent in their sales pith which you have to find funny. I really liked it and wish that I had done a homestay. A couple of nights we hung out in a local bar with local people. Its odd Hmong women in traditional dress, sinking Tiger with the tourists.
I hired a motorbike twice. the first day i took a guide with me and he showed me a load of cool s***. The second time I went off by myself and was brave. I nearly died on at least 3 occassions. I have feline qualities. Being a bit like a cat also caused me to get bitten on the ankle by a street dog. I had to go to hospital to get it checked out. There was no need for a rabies shot. So, being like a cat has caused me to nearly die and keep me alive at the same time. i think I probably have 3 or so lives left. I like dancing with death. Death is a f***ing wicked dancer. I befriended some local kids who sell jewelry on the street. Theyre hilarious. I have advised one of them to start a Vietnamese gossip column. A travel agent asked me if I wanted to marry his niece. She's stunningly good looking but probably wouldn't agree with my choice of child names and that would be a definite deal breaker. She told me she lives in Dallas. i wonder if she means Dallas, texas cos that would be a monster commute.
I only have a few hours left here before getting on the night trainback to Hanoi so I might go for a walk. I'm very happy to be alive. Pho pho pho pho pho pho.
I can't belive my time away is coming to an end. Yes, I'm looking forward to sharing stories with you all over a lemonade but I am not looking to the cold or the wet, nor the prospect of real life with a job and bills to pay. Maybe I should marry the travel agent's niece. My Vietnamese coffee tastes like self actualization.