Sailing in Halong Bay

Monday marked two weeks since I began my tour of Asia. I am happy to report that I am FINALLY 100% recovered (YAHOO!), after discovering that my illness wasn’t an infection or a result of something I’d eaten, but rather a bad side effect of the malaria medication I was taking. After mulling my options (feeling like death now vs. potentially feeling like death later if I catch malaria), I opted for going off the medication. I’ll layer on the DEET in areas where there are mosquitos and hope for the best. At least now I can get up in the morning and not want to cry out of misery and pain. I think that’s a better option!

At any rate, our little group of six more than doubled in size as we met up with more travellers in Hanoi. We now have three Americans, two more Kiwis, a German, and two more Brits. The Americans are living up to all stereotypes thus far, which is unfortunate because I know that they do come in non-ignorant varieties as I’ve met some lovely ones during my travels. Here, however, not so much. “Why don’t they just put the garbage in cans?”, “Oh my God, guys, there’s a pig on the back of the bike”, “You don’t have an accent?”, (would you like me to beef up the Mckenzie brothers references?), “What was John McCain imprisoned for?” (REALLY?!) etc. etc.

Anyway, we all stuffed ourselves into our van and made the three-hour drive to Halong Bay, for a day and night on a junk boat sailing around the bay. I had seen photos of the turquoise water and hundreds of islands and was very excited for some warm sunshine and relaxation.

It certainly was relaxing, but twas no sunshine to be found. It was actually quite freezing (I wore three shirts!) so we spent a lot of time (when not hiking or exploring caves) inside, eating. Plate after plate of food came out of that tiny kitchen, much of it deep fried but much of it delicious. As I’ve been struggling to meet my fruit, veg and protein requirements each day, I was happy to load up my plate with leafy greens and tofu.

A highlight for me was sea kayaking (and not tipping over). Unfortunately this meant subjecting everyone to my white, white legs (somehow, I think I will return from this trip paler than when I left) but I stayed relatively dry as we explored the Bay. And by explored I mean tore around, as it felt like we were competing in a race with the Kiwis who power-paddled like they were in the Olympics. Welcome back to exercise, arms. It’s been awhile.

Our junk boat was quite luxurious, and I think we were all sad to leave the easy-going pace of life on that boat (and the food, let’s be honest). It was quiet, relatively clean (save for the smell of diesel that lingered in the air), and very peaceful to just sit and stare out at the water. I can only imagine how nice it would be in warmer, sunnier weather.

We headed back for an afternoon in hectic Hanoi (which will be forever remembered in my mind as the place where I nearly died looking for peanut butter), before boarding our overnight train to Hue.

After my last overnight train experience in Thailand where I didn’t sleep and had a horrible

migraine, I was wary of this one. Luckily I had a bottom bunk (thanks Tracey!) and it was quite cozy, like a little sleepover in our room. And there was local beer (333). We’re now getting ready for a rainy day (SO MUCH RAIN ON THIS TRIP, WHY OH WHY!) of exploring Hue, before heading off for three days in Hoi An. Where I’d like to have some clothes made, but can’t decide exactly what. Any suggestions?

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