Ha Long Bay I

We head down to the side of our boat to grab another little skiff over to the island we’re approaching but almost everyone (including Drisdelle) is gone except for me, Murphy and the couple from Philly.  Turns out they weren’t joking about leaving in ten minutes and took off without us but one of the crew assures us they’ll come back.  We jump in, pull up to the island and walk up a set of sea-slippery steps to a wharf and meet up with our pushy tour guide guy.  He tells us we’ll be here for 45 minutes, we can either swim or hike up to the top of the hill or maybe do both, the 410-step hike to the top takes him 10 minutes so we decide to go for it.  The boys are both wearing their swim trunks so they’re talking about jumping in after we get to the bottom.

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The steps up to the top are really narrow and there are hundreds of people on them.  It’s made trickier by a few Chinese couples completely fucking up the game by taking selfies and blocking the flow of traffic.  There aren’t many places to pull over or sit down either so we get slowed to a crawl by a handful of older folks struggling to make it.  It’s pretty steep at points, I’m using my hands on the stairs ahead of me like a ladder.

We reach the top and the little gazebo is packed, it’s tricky to jostle our way into a place with a good view, a lot of groups with selfie sticks flailing about dangerously.  One group of Asian ladies standing next to Murphy decide to pull him into the group shot.  They absolutely adore him, getting pictures with each of their phones, so we decide we’d better get one with Murphy’s as well.

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About this time Bruce got to the top and saw Murphy goofing around, a second group then pulled Murphy in and Bruce was immediately enamored with the idea of getting into people’s photos.  He jumped into the same group with Murphy then circled around the gazebo jumping into everyone’s photos.  Some of the groups put up with a bit then tried to politely ask him to get the fuck out of the way with minimal English, really awkward.  When he got the hint he started making duck quacking noises.  What

Eventually we squeezed in for some shots of the bay.  Noice.

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Here’s a super-rare pic of us all together and not being idiots.  This is mostly for our moms.

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Back down to the bottom the boys decided not to jump in, looked kind of dirty, we got a round of Hanoi Beer instead.  It was terrible, skunky shit, tasted like cat piss and wood chips, not sure if all Hanoi Beer is this bad or if this was left out in the sun or something.  We never tried it again for the rest of the trip so I can’t say.

“I think this is the worst beer I’ve ever had.” – Jamie Drisdelle

Bruce walks past.  I watch him walk up to a Vietnamese girl, put his hands together in a temple-pose, bows and quacks at her.  What

The view of the islands from the beach is fantastic but somewhat sullied by the 300 pound Russian men walking around in speedos.  We also get buzzed by a wasp the size of a hummingbird.  Regular wasps evoke a primal rage/fear combo in me, this thing doesn’t seem aggressive but its mere presence is making me crazy.  I reluctantly chug the shitbeer, let’s roll boys.

It’s time to get back on the boat so we all meet up near a statue of the Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov (this island was named in honour of him).  Bruce was leaning against it, getting in the photos of everyone taking a picture.  We all jump in the skiff and we’re back to the main boat.

A quick jaunt through a few of the islands and we’re once again into the skiff, this time to an island with caves.  We climb up a few dozen stairs then into a few chambers.  It’s nice and all but after the Paradise Caves in Hue we’re total cave snobs.

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We had a guide accompany us in and tell us a bit about the history of the caves, apparently they weren’t discovered until 1993 when some fisherman saw monkeys disappearing into the hillside and followed them in.  Our guide tells us a story about how when Vietnamese couples visit the cave, sometimes the boyfriend becomes embarrassed and insecure when they see this particular formation, hurrying their girlfriends along.  Dick jokes are the universal language.

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We kind of rush through, ditching our guide and most of our group and reach the exit.  It was getting late in the day, we were looking forward to getting back out onto the boat and onto the top deck with a beer for sunset.

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On the way back to the boat we go into what may be the worst bathroom in Vietnam to take a leak.  We can smell it from hundreds of feet away.  After we get out the smell is clinging to us.  Unreal.  I tip my hat to whoever unleashed that carnage.

Our skiff pulls up and we head down the very, very slippery steps.  I’m using my hands to balance myself, some guys from our boat are helping us on, I make it aboard but Bruce is right behind me and he bails hard.  Everyone on the boat makes an “ooooo” sound and I look back to see him sprawled across five or six stairs.  He says he’s not hurt but it looks pretty ugly, he seems to get up and move okay though.

Back to the boat, it’s drink o’clock…

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