Just another UNESCO World Herritage sight

Day XXVII – April 14
A quick kiss goodbye, a paper with my e-mail address on it, the promise of meeting up again somewhere later, after convincing me to postpone my Halong Bay trip didn’t work – he’s going there tomorrow and wanted me to come then.
It might be nice to have a travelbuddy again, a boyfriend on the road… As long as it is just short term though, otherwise it’d start feel like cheating the guy back home who’s NOT supposed to be waiting for me. No string attached and no waiting is one thing, one-night flings are fine, but an actual relationship? Meh.

At 8.30 we’re still in the morning madness -though I doubt it has much to do with morning anymore- in Hanoi, picking up people, most of them asian, no backpackers, and the bus isn’t half full yet.
In the city it’s smoggy and not even hot, but we have a 4-hour drive ahead of us, so it might clear up out there.

So, Vietnam. A constant flow of motors -at least they’re wearing helmets- that only quiets down in the darkest of the night. And I guess I notice them more now because where I was the past three weeks it was an absolute taboo, but everywhere I see cutesy couples.
Most of the city is about 4 stories high; a shop at ground level and 3 individual looking shacks atop of it, the highest open on 3 sides. Every now and then a taller building breaks the skyline, but those wouldn’t even be scrapers. And ALL of them waving flags; the national golden star, but also all sorts of different colours from purple to yellow, on silk.
The style of driving we’d call agressive at least, honking at anything, flashing lights, tailgating. Not at high speed, but crazy nonetheless.

We have a stop over at some shopping mall halfway, but I don’t fall for that trick.
hb cruiser
The groups are split when we get to the harbor, Vietnamese to one dock, international tourists to another.
I get on a boat, the Halong Bay Cruiser, with 6 others: a Dutch/Greek couple, two French girls, an older UK lady who’s travelling all by herself and an Aussie girl that lives and works in Jakarta.
I’m the odd one out who get’s a room all to myself. And sweet mother of jezus! It’s just a little room with wooden floors and tacky decorations, but also my own private bathroom and all! Love it!

Other than us 7 there’s 10 men staff aboard. Most of them speak too little English to interact with us, but our guide, Thang, and a few more of them aren’t shy of practicing.
disco cave
Lunch is served upstairs in the main room of the boat. A mixture of continental and local. Not amazing, but good. We get to roll our own fresh springrolls, always a treat!

After sailing for a good hour we get to our first stop: Dau Go cave. There must be a hundred boats moored there and the shore is as crowded as the streets of Hanoi. Good thinking to choose a weekend for this trip of course… I guess sometimes it’s a good idea to check what day it actually is.
The daytrippers are as pushy here as they are in traffic. We shuffle down into this cave lid in orange and green and blue and pink; it’s more like a disco than like a wonder of nature. Not my sort of cave, with that paved road to follow everywhere, filled with tourists and their guides shouting over eachother to be heard.

We embark again and go deeper into the maze of islands, where we stop at a floating village to go canoeing.
Again, being the odd one out, I get a kayak to myself. There are still a few diesel-powered touristboats floating around. But I hang back a bit, so I go through the hole in the hill only after the last of those left the lake inside.
Being in there and having that lake all to myself, with the mumbling of the motors far in the distance, but the chirping of the birds and the calm quiet of the high hill close around me… amazing!
Then it’s back to the Halong Bay Cruiser again for a few more hours of humming to only the zoom of our own motor, the mouthharmonica of the captain’s kid and the chatter of birds in the forest that is all around us. Appearently the crew’s big fans of Bruno Mars; they’ve put on the Lazy Song twice already. But left it at that, luckily.

It’s so beautiful! Every corner we turn treats us on another stunning view!
I’ve shot a 100 pictures already and have no clue what to do with all of them, but I just can’t put my camera away.
Eventually we moor in a sort of valley with a few other boats,
Before dinner we dare eachother at jumping of the highest deck into the cold water. Good fun! *Too bad I forgot to get contact info to get the pictures and back this one up.
After dinner we go back on deck to play some cards, laughing at the horrible karaoke we hear coming from the other boats.
And then the Dutch guy invents this rule where the loser has to sing one.
Naturally, he ends up losing himself. So we go downstairs, hook up the system and indulge in over and hour of karaoke-folly; it actually was fun! Some of the crew joins in to show us how it’s done with some Vietnamese songs. And as it is the 100th anniversary of Titanic precisely tonight we have to perform My heart will go on all together.
At 12am we call it a night and turn in. Hopefully the other boats will soon too; tomorrow breakfast/checkout is at 8am.

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