Monday, 19 October 2015

HA LONG BAY again (Day 1: Let's sink some Germans !)

Today it is time to head back to Ha Long Bay.  I will exchange choice of foods and internet access points for sleeping on an old wooden junk cruising through, and at night anchored in, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
sticking to safe food for breakfast !
A modern Ford Transit picks me up for the 4 hour trip to Ha Long.  

Next people to be picked up are a tall and in-shape British man of about my age and two women. At first I assume that he is accompanied by his very attractive younger wife and chubby daughter but later realize that I’m looking at a Lesbian couple.  So far, so good.

The next pick-up is more disturbing.  How can people let themselves get this large?  After they’ve let the less-than-half-their-weight Vietnamese driver schlepp their luggage into the car (I later ask one of suitcase owners if they brought their own rubber boat), and they squeeze into the row behind me, my ears detect snippets of the German language.  

After one hour of bus ride (agreeing among themselves what the Vietnamese are doing wrong and how they, the Germans, could do it RIGHT), one of the Germans asks me whether he can sit in my row of seats. After I agree, he squeezes in, only separated from me by my backpack in the seat between us.  

Then he falls asleep.

This guy  needs a protective backpack
He keeps snoozing off sideways with his chin’s making direct contact with my lap only obstructed by his HUGE GUT and my backpack. Once his angle of inclination reaches a certain threshold, he kind of wakes up, snaps upright, and starts the cycle again.  Total duration of 1 cycle is about 1 minute and this goes on for at least 1 whole hour.

So you can imagine how happy I am when the bus finally reaches Ha Long and we get onto the tender that will bring us to the ship.

But instead of bringing us to ONE boat, it brings us to 4 more or less identical boats, all called the Annam Junk.  
Annam Junks

Ah well. Not important.  

What is important is that the Brits & the Germans get shipped to a DIFFERENT boat from me ;-)

Pulling away  from the 'Tourist Paradise' Ha Long being stamped out of the ground

When everyone has settled in their rooms, it is time for lunch.  There are two other groups  of 5 on the boat (One French couple with kid and friends and one British/Swedish couple with kids) and I get seated at a separate table.  This means that my table, like each of the other two tables,  for every course, gets a platter with food.  While the servings on my platters are smaller than those of the other tables, it is definitely not in a 1/5 ratio, which means I'm being brought HUGE quantities of food.  The food is great and so is the effort that went into the decorations on the platters.  After I request chop-sticks, the gap-toothed cook doesn't stop catching my eye and grinning at me.

At some point I have to tell them to stop bringing me food. I eat up all of the Fish with Lemon (OOOOH, soooo GOOOOOD), not because it is so yummy, but because I do my best not to insult these people. They're just so nice.

During and after lunch I notice this painful feeling just below my Solar Plexus.  NOT the food again, PLEASE!!!  Could this be the result of my big mistake 2 days ago, when I thought it might be cool to do some sit-ups  to get some abs back?

Be it fear or  an overfull stomach, I lay down on my cot and instantly fall asleep. At some point someone bangs on the door to inform me that a climbing and swimming excursion is about to leave the boat to TiTop Island but I just gruff at them and fall back asleep.

2.5 hours later I wake up, notice that my stomach is mostly at peace, and leave my room. The hikers and swimmers have just returned and the over-eager tour guide informs me that the kayaking excursion is about to leave.

Why not?

The tender ships us to a floating platform that has  kayaks tied  to it.  All of a sudden I notice that the Germans and the British guy with the two younger women from yesterday's bus are also there.  

There is a rule that people must occupy the 2-person kayaks  (booooring) and the Brit and I agree to paddle one together.  

He seems to have a good sense of humour as I notice when I say "Should we sink some Germans?" in response to his question where we should paddle.

Due to the approaching darkness, we were told to be back at the dock in 45 minutes.   Almost  everyone arrives in time.  The French dad provides us with a spectacle when during his attempts to exit his kayak the distance between the kayak and the dock continues  to increase and the distance between his butt and the water keeps decreasing.  Soon 3 people are pulling on him but we all look on in shock and amusement when his butt cheeks slowly become submersibles.  This butt dip seems to give him new strength, because he doesn't fall into the water but manages to get onto the dock.

Now everyone notices that we're missing two paddlers.  5 minutes later the British guy shouts "There they are! And only one of them is paddling", which starts fist-banging on the wooden benches of the tender, trying to imitate the drums on ancient slave galleys to get them to paddle faster.

"We don't have any watches!" is the excuse delivered by the Germans.  Duh!  Wouldn't that be a reason to be on the cautious side and be early?

The paddling German is the same one that tried to sleep on my lap in the bus earlier.  While he doesn't perform any cheek-dipping like the French guy, he manages to moon us all during his not very elegant attempts  of disembarking, causing numerous 'PLEASE!;  and  'Not necessary' cat calls from the onlookers.

I just snicker to the Brit: "How can you tell that the French and Germans don't live on islands?"

As soon as I'm back on the boat, I tell the crew that I'll skip dinner (still FULL) and I hit the feathers in my cabin.

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