Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Ha Long Day II (and PIROUETTING on the upper deck ;-)

All that sleeping yesterday afternoon and evening has the result of being wide awake at 4 am.  No problem.  Ah well, I have laundry to do anyway.   I notice that there is spurious internet from a ship anchored close by.  I even manage to connect and check my e-mail.  Later that day I realize that I should have checked Canadian election results.  Even later I realize that I’m on the wrong side of the date line:  Canadians are still voting.   

If you look carefully along the upper right and central edge you can see that dawn is not far off
Something to look forward tomorrow:  I am reminded of the woman in Hawaii who left the continental US when George W (the 2nd Bush president) was elected.  While it is certainly a bit flamboyant to wish for another pirouetting Canadian Prime Minister behind the British Queen’s back, I honestly have to say that my days in Canada will be numbered if the old government is re-elected because given their present state, I don’t think the physical country of Canada or the mentality of its people can handle any more of the same.

Strange thoughts to have at 5 to 6 a.m. on a Junk in Ha Long Bay

But there is not much else to do at this hour.

Some of the crew are still sleeping on the floor of the dining room

I have to walk through the dining room to get to the upper deck, and either Vietnamese sleep very lightly or I walk very heavily,

because they always wake up when I walk by !

So I stay in my room and watch the arrival of the new day

The boat is anchored the right way for the show to happen in front of my window

Shortly after breakfast, yet another food-laden boat approaches the ship, with the occupant trying to sell water or American-style chocolates or soft-drinks.  I already bought 2 bottles of water from another row-by store owner yesterday and have to decline.

Laundry drying on my balcony

Instead of being crated off to another boat to be subjected to more 'tourist activities, I have elected to stay on this boat, which is returning to the harbour to drop of the 1-night-cruise passengers and pick up new ones

lazy time in a deck chair

Sometimes island-watching from a deck-chair is preferable to kayaking or visiting an oyster farm!

As we approach the harbour to pick up the new passengers, I get a glimpse of the new tourist city being stomped out of the ground.  Hotels, marinas for fancy yachts, amusement parks, etc. etc.

Just before lunch, I hear the boat operators tell a newly arrived couple that the Royal Suite is available. My mind starts working instantly. Given my last name and the involved extra costs of US$ 35, I can’t see how I can NOT take that room.  I even ask one of the stewards to show me the room. 

But then the folly hits me square in the face. I feel ashamed for even having asked the question. Given the number of Vietnamese sleeping on couches and the floor of their work places and given a monthly salary of a receptionist in a nice Hanoi hotel of US$200, how could I even think of spending an extra $35 just to get a fancier room. After all there is absolutely nothing wrong with my room. 

Mental note: Instead leave exorbitant tip for boat crew when I leave.  Money better spent !!!!

Then it’s lunch time again.  I have half of yesterday’s bottle of wine still waiting for you.  Today’s menu is actually slightly different from yesterday’s.  I eat oysters for the 2nd time in my life.  Still far from my favourite food!  On the other hand the salad reminds me of my cooking in Hawaii and how extremely well pineapple and garlic go together.
Then I notice that my lunch menu deviates from that of the newly arrived guests.  Mine has a significantly more Vietnamese look to it.  Ever since I requested chop-sticks and chili sauce, the gap-toothed cook (?) has been grinning at me at every possible occasion.  Also, my repeated requests for half-rations today seem to have fallen on deaf ears.  The last thing I want to do is leave Vietnamese food on my plate, these people are too nice to me to insult them in return!

Ti Top Island

After that it’s soon time to head to Ti Top Island. How the Russian cosmonaut Germane Titov who visited this particular island in 1962 together with Ho Chi Minh got his name mangled so badly is a mystery to me.  

up these stairs we go

It looks steep but I'm surprised how easy  it is. Cycling is paying off ;-)

Getting up to the top is surprisingly easy for me; I am leaving numerous people in their 20s behind wailing about the horrible steepness and length of the incline.  Oh, come on people; I that really the youth of today? Or  maybe these people just haven’t used their feet for walking or cycling for a while?

not too much sweat on those brows

Some nice views from the top and then it’s a rapid descent to the beach because jumping in the ocean after this really Really REALLY feels GOOD.

No comments, please, I honestly can’t remember when these shoulders have last seen the sun.
Lily-white Lilith (I can't remember the last time my shoulders were exposed to the sun)

Time to go back to the Junk, which is anchored close-by.

Back on the ship I take a shower, wash today’s clothes in the sink, and learn a new Vietnamese word when I’m asking for more teabags.  Xin, some more tea bags!
While typing  away at this post (right in the middle of working in Microsoft Word because my Junk doesn’t have internet, I notice that my computer remembered the router of the ship that was anchored close-by this morning and from which I grabbed bits and pieces of Wifi. I am connected!  At first I don’t realize what that means, but after a few seconds my fingers turn into a whirlwind opening a browser and typing Google News Canadian Election. USA TODAY tops the list for this search term and their headline reads “Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Liberal Party end Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s rule”.

OH THANK GOD!                                  

I’m truly shocked by the magnitude of the torrent of relief that washes over me. After dinner (it's dark now) I will come back to the upper deck and execute a pirouette ;-)

He's not resting; he's actually rowing !

Then it's dinner time and I get to admire what I missed yesterday!

Dinner is great as usual.  While the taste naturally can’t reach that of food in a Michelin Starred restaurant, the effort and care that goes into the visual preparation is stunning.

Yesterday I had only noticed the filigreed bordering on the serving plates, which today has been taken to new heights.  

When the waiter brings in the prawns, I stare at the serving arrangement with utter disbelief.  It can’t be.  I touch the rubbery surface of the orange flower.  Still not definite. I use my fingernail to pinch off a bit of the rubbery orange substance.  Still can’t be sure.  I’m about to stick the stuff into my mouth, when the waiter walks by and I ask him “Is this a carrot?”  

He starts pointing at the various flowers “Orange carrot, white radish, green cucumber, red chili”.  When I excitedly get up to get a picture of this unbelievable oeuvre, the entire glass topples and the waiter catches it just in time.   

I end up eating the cucumber and the radish flowers completely; the red of the chili is a bit too much of a warning sign for me this evening. 

Another course arrives “Fish in carrot net”.  They actually attacked a carrot with a knife until they could pull the result apart and put the fish inside. Mindboggling! 
Fish 'caught' in a 'net' of carrot

The gap-toothed chef appears once in a while behind me and puts on his best gap display whenever he catches my eye.  I make sure to point at all the decorations that I haven’t eaten or destroyed yet and thank him “Cam on nhieu”.   

He puts in such a huge effort to make the tourists happy, and all I have heard from the other table was a German language exclamation of “Gross, that prawn still has eyes in it!” 

It’s a sign of reasonable freshness, you ignant tourist: eyes are the first thing to rot away on old seafood!

Then it's time to head back to my cabin, look out the window for a while and sleep the good sleep, dreaming of a new government.

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