20.05.2008 - 24.05.2008
THe next morning we were up bright and early and packed up. Our main back packs were staying behind and we were just taking day bags with us, we climbed onto the mini bus and were joined by some austrailians who had actually been on the slow boat in to Laos with us. 4 hours later and one stop at a giant pot/sculpture/marble/silk embroidery place we were in Ha Long bay and surrounded by Junk boats. Our tour was a 'VIP' tour... and it really was. The boat we were on was like something out of our dreams, huge made from dark wood with private rooms, sun longers on the top deck, a small set of weights if we felt so inclinded, dining room etc. We were greated with drinks of orange squash and made our way upstairs to the sun deck.
We set sail for the caves which are a unesco world heritage site so Nha our tourgide gave us a walking tour through it, but given our guide book reading and previous cave visiting we shortly overtook her and just gazed around us through this huge cave chain. Next up was kyaking and i know what has been said before about Leanne and I kyaking... and while this time it went better her doubts about the amount of work i did were fairly loud though i have to say the steering went much better with me in charge!
Back onto the boat and we sailed to a spot where we were going to be mored for the night and could swim so into the water we went. a lot. Then settled down to the gin we had arrived with on the top deck with some music till our dinner was prepared. We had been forewarned there would be kareoke so someof us topped up on dutch courage while the australians just continued as it appears they normally do. We chose songs and threw them into a basket so you didnt know what you were going to get. I have to say a personal high was Nate singing like a virgin in his boxers with Mr Dragon (yes that was his name) helping him out. After all the singing exercise we decided at 11pm it really would be best to jump in again. Some of us from the top deck, some of us from the normal level... ok so everyone but me from the top deck!
The next day we had to be up unnecessarily early given how late we had gone to bed and were taken off our lovely large boat onto a smaller one to sail to Cat ba island to do a cycle tour to a local 'tourist' village... as in a village built and populated specially for visitors. We set off and enjoyed the windy flat road in the sunshine then hit a hill... then found out we couldn't change geers.. then found out my chain fell off every 2 mintues and was almost unfixable. Some very oily hands later (not mine... i have to admit i just stood and advised!) a man with a scooter zipped past and i jumped on. Eventually we reached the others in the village. Despite my scootering we had been very delayed by the chain problems. They were not best pleased to see me on a scooter while they had been cycling in the boiling heat! Oh well, poor them...
We saw the village and then cycled (scootered) back to the boat and were off for some swimming and another amazing sea food lunch. I didnt mention it before because i was too full from dinner but allt he food ont he baot was caught that day and bought about 10 mins before dinner from floating fish shops that dont have tanks just nets into the sea from boards. The boards are on floating barrells and used as walkways, quite strange but good food. I tried crab which ... tastes like crab sticks surprisingly ... but is not worth the effort put into getting the flesh i think, squid - never again!
So after lunch and some more swimming in the clear water and over to a beach nearby (i towed the small irish member of our party who ownded up to being a poor swimmer despite jumping of the top deck of the boat the night before) we set sail again for the port and town in Cat Ba island. Dinner and another messy night in which the Austrailians taught us a new game. It involves pretending to do front crawl accross the floor and then a turn at the end and back to see who wins the race... it is not clean given its played ont he floor, and equally can cause bruising but hysterical to watch! We went to the local discoteque to boogy away after being in a bar we semi took over.
The next day it was up at 7:30 for breakfast and then the boat back to the port of ha long and into the bus and home... to sleep, wash, lie down and eat a pizza!
That evening half of the team left for Hue and we stayed and went to a traditional water puppet show. I was particularly looking foward to the act called man playing hte flute ona waterbuffalo, very dissapoined by unicorns playing with a ball (their unicorns are dragons) but enjoyed something involving catching a fox who lookedl ike a leopard and zipped up a tree! then i fell into bed as i was almost to tired to stand any more.
The next day we were up early again to go and see the body of Ho Chi Minh which, like Lenin, is kept preserved for people to view. It was a very unsetteling expierience i have to say. Even if he does manage to get a 3 month holiday to Russia every year to be 'touched up', filling into a silent room to see a body that has been dead for 33 years and while you are watched by silent unmoving guards is just plain wierd.
Next up was the Museum which is really more like a modern art gallery and also made me uncomfortable as having done no modern history i couldnt quite come to grips with socialism, communism, the difference and why it would appear to be a good idea and also the spin on all the displays. With my head hurting we headed back towards our hostel. I decided it would be a good time to go shoe shopping after some good tofu free vegitarian food ..and so i did! we then headed over to the post office to finally try to post some stuff home as really our bags were too heavy and we had too much stuff.
Mission accomplished we showered and prepared for a night bus to Hue on our 5 stop bus ticket to Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) in the south.