Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Halong Bay

From Hue, I took an overnight sleeper bus to Hanoi. Well, at least they advertised it as a sleeper. The buses have three rows of double bunk beds with two aisle separating them, but at the back there are three mats that are all touching because the restroom takes the space of the aisles. Naturally, I ended up sandwiched between two Vietnamese men. Luckily for me, the obesity epidemic has not yet caught on here. Unfortunately, neither has deodorant.

The guy next to me was compulsively texting. Each time he received a text, his phone would whistle loudly and a woman's voice would shout "taxi." As I was starting to accept that I was not going to be getting much sleep in my Vietnamese sleeping sandwich, the bus driver started to blast techno music. I at least figured it couldn't get any worse. Then the bus's built in laser light show began. The bus also arrived 2 hours late. The driver was a bit too busy jamming to house music and stopping for snacks to be bothered with anything so trivial as a schedule.

After zooming across Hanoi on a motorbike with my suitcase, I arrived to find that luckily my halong bay tour was also operating on vietnamese time. After a three hour drive, the tour arrived at halong bay. It really is breathtaking. My overnight boat, the Elizabeth sails, was beautiful. There were about 20 passengers on board. I opted against the cheaper boats for this trip because they have the nasty habit of sinking in the middle of the night and killing everyone on board. I'm a good swimmer but I'm not in the mood to find out how good.

After lunch, we went and explored a huge cave, went kayaking and then went for a swim. Swimming mostly involved jumping off the third floor of the boat into the water. So fun.
I was never lacking in for friends since the boat seemed to be full of couples who had been traveling for months and had run out of things to say to each other- kind of like those couples in restaurants who just comment occasionally about the food but largely sit in silence. Luckily for me, they had lots of terrific tips about Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

I'm taking an overnight train to Sapa tonight.  I'm really hoping it is not a techno laser bus. l'll then stay in sapa one night and then take a night train back the following night. Then, off to Laos!

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