Feast of Halong Bay

Trip Start Aug 15, 2003
Trip End Aug 14, 2004

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Arriving back in Hanoi at 5.30am after a decent nights sleep on the train, we head straight to the Handspan office to catch our next trip out to Ha Long Bay. Just what we need after a few days trekking, a relaxing cruise. In a UNESCO World Heritage site no less. It must be special. And to be honest we were not disappointed!! What a place.

After a few more hours of sitting on our arses in a bus we get to the busy port at Ha Long City. The commotion on land is mirrored on the sea. To get to the port, boats literally crash into the one in front, first to let them know they are there, and secondly to shunt them out of the way, in order to off load and then reload themselves.

It is a wonder that there is not more road rage, or more specific, harbour rage here. But they just smile and crack a few jokes amongst themselves and carry on like nothing has happened.

Ha Long Bay is made up of around 2000 individual islands and beaches. All day Chinese Junk styled boats ferry tourist in and out around them, in and array of different styled trips. We have opted for a 2 night kayak adventure!! It really is the perfect setting for R & R. All we have to do is sit on top of the boat whilst the crew prepare us our lunch and dinner, serving us fresh fruit and drinks. The weather is also perfect, allowing us to sleep upon deck the first night, beneath the stars - how romantic!!

Not being a scientist, I am not sure of the correct terminology, or reason behind a condition called Phosphorescence. But to describe it, think of swimming in the sea at night, and with every stroke you make there is a sparkle in the water - someone described it as angel dust. On our first night, after dinner had settled, and the stars started shooting, we jumped into the water. And this angle dust appeared.

Next morning we had the privilege of being part of Vietnamese stupidity. It took the crew, three boats, and an hour and a half to transfer us to base camp around the corner - I think I could have swam it faster. But having arrived there, it really was something out of the imagination. Perfect white sand, beach huts and no other tourists.

More Vietnamese stupidity continued when they tried to get us out on the kayaks during the mid day sun - only about 35 degrees and on water. The prospect of burning our little white skin was too big, and to be honest I had a full belly and wanted an hours sleeping. So as a group we refused to go out until later in the afternoon. We then kayaked to a couple of secluded beaches and had a swim, enjoying the sunset and relative coolness.

After dinner, and after 4 hours of kayaking, and feeling tired again, it was off to bed and the real feast for the evening. Lets get this clear, mosquitos are bastards! No two ways about it, and after over 200 bites on my legs, I am sure you will excuse my bad language. I have done nothing but scratch and itch ever since. I am just glad I started my Malaria tablets. I just hope they work.

The night was not without its small pleasures however. Having set my alarm for an earlier than usual wake up call at 1.45am, I crawled into another beach hut beside two Vietnamese blokes who spoke little English. Beneath a completely useless mossie net, on a desert island I watch Portugal march on in Euro 2004. England were terrible again, and deserved to go home.

Tomorrow we are back on the over night train heading south to Hue. Please let there be less mosquitos!
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