One thing you have to do when you get to Hanoi is leave it. For a couple of days anyway, and make a little four hour detour to Ha Long Bay (which literally means 'descending dragon bay'). We booked the trip through our hotel on the Ha Long Party Cruise. Woo hoo!! We were the first to be picked up and on our way to pick up our fellow party animals at their hotels, we had our first taste of police corruption when they came on board and insisted that the driver pay a 'fine' for violating a 'traffic law'. Funny, especially as anyone who has been to Vietnam knows its just one big traffic violation. We pick up the first group, 3 Canadians with one, Jamie, asking "is there a toilet on the boat?" Bloody hope so as we'll be on it for 2 days, 1 night! Then we pick up a couple and their 2 young teenage daughters. They're from Australia via Germany and Africa, 3 guys from Watford, a mongolian couple on their honeymoon and a Chilean. Our tour guide is Joang. Lovely guy, talks way too much. So this is it, party time. We jump on a little boat to take us to the cruise boat with Joang telling us to look at all the boats out in the water, then wait till we see ours and how amazing ours looks. We finally reach our boat, and well, it looks exactly like all the others. Smaller than some, even. It does however have PARTY CRUISE written across it. Yay. We jump on board and get shown to our cabins. They are lovely. Definately one of the nicest places we have stayed during our travels. And there is an actual shower. With a door! Luxury. One thing to mention is the weather. It is freezing. Really bitter and windy, but a little problem is that we havent packed for the cold. Why would we? This is summertime Asia. So we pretty much shiver for our duration on the boat. But we brave it outside, and watch the amazing limestone islands of various shapes and sizes poking out of the water. Stunning, and something that has to be seen to be believed. We drop anchor and our first excurtion is kayaking around the bay. Now, i've never done this before, Sarah had done it once, but we get no training on how to do it whatsoever. We literally get on the Kayak and we're on our own. Except for the huge boats sailing along the bay. With one heading straight for us. Sarah's yelling to paddle right, which I do. She's shoulting "RIGHT!" I yell back "I AM GOING RIGHT!!" She replies "I MEAN LEFT!". I start to panic that I want to get off the boat, Sarah reminds me that we can't as we're out in the middle of the water with nowhere to go. We eventually get out of it alive, and after the initial hiccups and not knowing our left from right, we do pretty well. We'd even be good enough to compete in 2012 Olympics. We eventually get back to the safety of the Party boat, shower, change and get ready for the night's party. We are given a complimentary glass of wine. It's Vietnamese wine. Yeah, they don't do wine so good. It's the kind you have to down quickly and results in a few facial spasms after. It's announced that dinner is served. Its not bad. Plates of squid, pork, pak choi, fish, chicken, salad, stir fried veg and (yay) chips! It all goes down pretty well, has to be said. After dinner, its party time. Joang as been going on about the legendary party boat that we know its gonna be insane. It's gonna be wild. It's gonna blow our minds. It's, it's, karaoke?! Fabulous. I need more vietnamese wine. Joang kicks it off with Lionel Richie's 'Hello', and soon enough well all join in. Sarah and I even manage a pitch perfect rendition of Oasis 'Wonderwall'. After the karaoke fun dies down and people start to go to bed, it leaves the canadians and the five Brits to do what we do best, drinking games. It's gonna be tough to get up in the morning.
After a comfy sleep in a comfy bed, it's breakfast at 7.30 and we have eggs, some weird tasting sausage thing and what looks like 10 slices of toast each. I guess it helps with the delicate head most of us have. Our trip this morning is to one of the caves. The name escapes me. But its pretty. It's a cave. Blah blah blah. We head back to the boat for an intense cookery class. It consists of making one spring roll. The filling was pre-made also. We pack our bags, have some lunch (Slimy beef stew that tasted better than it looked, rice, morning glory and, err, peanuts) say bye to the crew then make our way back to shore. We're a little grateful that it's a tad milder on land, too!