Reminiscing about South East Asia with a montage

It’s been almost 2 years since we left New Zealand and set off through South East Asia for two months. We went through Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and at the time we thought we would struggle to live out of a suitcase for that long.  We thought wrong.

I think that trip was the best I’ve been on (which is a tough competition) mainly because it was longer and that allowed us to really soak up the place and relax.

We’ve been throwing ideas around of future longer trips we could take and also getting nostalgic for our trip; back when we didn’t have jobs, a lease on a flat or many possessions.  Life was simple and fun then (not that it’s particularly bad now though!).

We’ve been looking at buying a GoPro for recording some more travel clips along with other gadgets and have been wishing we took more video when we travel.  I spent a bit of time digging around on the computer and I found a treasure trove of video clips from our trip back in 2012.  Most of them are pretty poor quality (I’d like to blame our cheap little camera but mostly its my poor camera skills at fault).  We did manage to do up a bit of a montage of our trip anyway.

Hopefully we get back there one day as this video makes me miss the place!

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Back in Nam – Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh) city

We left the (relatively) quiet city of Dalat behind and took off on yet another bus for Saigon.  I know I’ve been on too many of them here as I am no longer shocked by driving on the wrong side of the road for extended periods of time (with oncoming traffic everywhere), cutting blind corners or any of the other crazy things these guys do in the name of  transporting tourists.

We booked the Golden Wind Hotel in Saigon mainly because the name made me laugh but the downside was that, despite being very close to where we were dropped off by our bus, it was a tad hard to find.  So I left Dayna with our piles of luggage and took off on a quick mission to find our hotel.

You know it’s a good hotel when they hide it down a series of twisting, turning alley ways and have absolutely no signs anywhere pointing the way from the street.  Thankfully I, along with all males, have an in-built sense of direction and I found it no problem and a few minutes later we were all checked in.

The location couldn’t have been better really since being in an alley way meant we were away from the noisy street but we were still right in the middle of the action.  We were even happier when we discovered this bakery called ABC about a minute’s walk from our hotel – best bakery food ever.  We ate something there every day after finding it.

ABC Lunch (all this for $4)

One of our many meals at ABC (all this for $4)

We had a general look around, checked out the night markets, got lost a bit and dodged a lot of traffic before our half day tour to the Cu Chi tunnels.

I think most people have heard of these tunnels but, just in case you haven’t, they are a huge underground network of tunnels dug by the local Vietnamese people and used most famously during the Vietnam war to help the Viet Cong fight and evade the US soldiers.

One of the tiny tunnel entrances

One of the tiny tunnel entrances

Our guide was really good and gave us a balanced, informed view of the history of the tunnels.  He explained the stories and history from a neutral point of view so it made a nice break from the heavy propaganda at some of the places we’ve visited.

There is a shooting range on site where you can pay to shoot a range of guns including machine guns like M-16s, AK-47s etc with live ammunition.  I guess the gunfire, which was even louder than I expected, gave us a slightly more realistic idea of what it might have been like to be here during the war.  You paid for 10 bullets minimum (~$16.50) and it sounded like quite a few people bought a fair bit more than that and let them off all at once.

Being unemployed, we opted for the cheaper option of just getting something to drink and waiting for the rest of the group to fire off their bullets.

With our ears ringing from the firing range we moved on to a bunch of gruesome traps that would impale, maim or kill anyone unlucky enough to run in to them.

The “Tiger” trap was a particularly nasty one with a camouflaged trapdoor with bamboo spikes soaked in animal poop (so that if you manage to survive the spikes you’ll die from the infection).

When you step on the trap

“Tiger” trap

There were also a bunch of traps that led to, in our guide’s words, soldiers having to go off to Bangkok to become Ladyboys.  Yep, they designed traps that would swing spikes in to your groin.  Rough.

American tank

Dayna and an old destroyed American tank at Cu Chi

The climax of the tour was meant to be actually going through some of the tunnels (although these ones have been widened for us fat westerners – we wouldn’t fit in the original ones).  We were both trying our best to overcome some claustrophobia and go through the tunnels but we didn’t succeed in the end.

Going into the tunnel

About as far as I got in to the Cu Chi tunnels – damn you Claustrophobia!

I had been as positive as possible about going through the tunnels but as soon as I took a couple of steps inside the tunnel my body quickly told me that, no, this is not going to end well if I go any further.  I backed out quickly to avoid turning in to a hyperventilating mess.

My (not so) inspiring effort put Dayna off from even attempting it so we had to meekly sneak back to our tour group without completing the underground trek.  Claustrophobia 1 – Matt and Dayna 0.

The other main side trip out of Saigon is to the Mekong Delta so we joined a tour for that the next day.  Our luck with tour guides ran out a bit and we didn’t get too many interesting things out of this guy.  We visited a long stream of places to try different types of food and drink and see some of the area but our guide’s most interesting advice throughout the day was that drugs and prostitution were illegal in Vietnam and we shouldn’t do it or we will get killed.  Not sure how that relates to the Mekong Delta but good to know I guess.

We met a bunch of guys from Malaysia in town on business who we hung out with for the rest of the day and they made the tour for me.  They had some great stories from their trips and were just good company.  My favourite story of theirs was from a trip to Saigon a few years ago.  They were in a taxi on the way to the airport in gridlock traffic so their driver told them they’ll have to jump out and get a motorbike (with all their luggage) or else they’ll miss their flight.

They didn’t think this would be too bad, the 3 of them still thinking that the driver was saying they would be fitting on 3 separate bikes.  But no, the driver flagged a motorbike down for them and the 3 of them squeezed on to the bike behind the driver and spent the next 30 minutes with their arms straight up holding their luggage above their heads.  Makes me think our motorbike rides were pretty tame in comparison.  They made it to the check in counter with only minutes to spare, only to find out the flight had been delayed 2 hours.

Matt on the Boat

Enjoying the ride on a row boat in the Mekong Delta

Snake Wine (that Matt tried)

Vietnamese Whisky – tastes like snake

Cute bee kid

Cute bee kid

Lunch

Our lunch

After about 3 and a 1/2 weeks in Vietnam, we’ve only managed a couple of proper conversations with locals that didn’t involve us buying something off them or them trying to sell us something.  However, on our last night out in Vietnam we found a perfect way to end our time in Vietnam by chatting to a local guy over a few beers at a street stall selling cheap (30 cents for a pint) local beer.

We learnt about Russians (allegedly) laundering money through Vietnam, and a few of the ins and outs of some of the buildings and bridges his company helped build (he’s a civil engineer).  He spoke english reasonably well but did come up with some pearls like when he wanted to know how long Dayna and I had been together by asking “How long have you two been loving each other?”.

He was great company anyway and it was the perfect way to say goodbye to the exciting, beautiful, colourful and sometimes infuriating country that is Vietnam.

City Street

City Street

Trying Matt's beer

Dayna beer tasting (still can’t get her to actually buy one though)

Watching traffic

Watching the traffic in Saigon

Poop in Dalat (Sitting in it and Drinking it)

We arrived in Dalat in the early afternoon after another Sinh Tourist bus took us out of Russia Nha Trang.

Thankfully this bus was a normal day time bus with seats so we avoided the hours of trying to find a position comfortable enough to sleep in.  Unfortunately the seats were built for people with somewhat smaller frames than mine so, instead, I spent hours sitting as if I was in an old school side saddle on a horse with my knees pointing out in to the aisle.  Not as bad as the girl behind me who got nailed by a falling bag as we hit a rather large bump though I guess.

Unbeknownst to us, our hotel had kindly sent a guy to meet us as we got off the bus to take us to our hotel. We followed him obediently to what we expected to be a taxi (we had all our luggage on us which equates to pretty much all our worldly possessions).  He didn’t think a taxi was necessary though and he handed us a couple of helmets and started strapping all our gear to his and his buddy’s motorbikes.  I’m still amazed how they fit everything plus us on those bikes and then weaved in and out of traffic.  Colour me impressed.

On to our (somewhat empty) hotel we went.  We didn’t see any other guests the whole time we were there but there were 4 plates put out for breakfast every morning and we heard some interesting sounds through the thin ceiling one night so our guess was that there was another (somewhat amorous) couple staying there.  Staying in a deserted hotel has its perks though as we did get great service.

Dalat is in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and 1,500 metres above sea level so it’s a lot cooler than everywhere else we’ve been except maybe Sapa.  It was a nice change to not be dripping sweat all day.

Partly because of the cooler weather, Dalat is quite a popular destination for Vietnamese tourists.  We were the only Western tourists in our part of town so the local kids found us quite interesting (either staring at us or, for the braver ones, screaming hello at us to practice their english).

Swan boats

Swan boats in the lake

The local tourists also come to Dalat for weddings and honeymoons apparently.  This leads to some awesome tourist attractions like Swan boat rides in the lake and horse drawn carriages and sites such as the “Valley of Love” and the “Lake of Sighs”.  We chose to avoid the kitsch, over-the-top “romantic” stuff  (Dayna has enough romance in her life already!) and opted for some more general sight-seeing trips.

We spent one day on a tour around the countryside visiting a really long list of local places like coffee/vegetable/flower farms, waterfalls, temples, local villages and a few other bits and pieces.

Gerbera Daisies everywhere!

Gerbera Daisies at one of our stops

One of the places was Elephant waterfall where we were told that we should have “good shoes” on as it was a bit of a rough track to the lookout apparently.  Too bad they told us this 2 minutes before we got there rather than before we left our hotel as we both had jandals on.

View from the top of the waterfall

View from the top of the waterfall

The rough track turned in to a nightmare with jandals on as it was incredibly slippery and there were quite a few places that dropped off in to huge rocky holes.  The worst part was it seemed like whoever designed the “track” was just messing with us.

There would be some nice steps cut in to the rock so we would think “Perfect, this is easy” then the steps would end and a deep valley would open up in front of us and we would spend 10 minutes trying to figure out where to go from there.  Eventually we would decide that we had to shuffle down the steep slippery rock and leap across a big gap in the track or perform some other athletic feat that isn’t easy with muddy jandals attached to your feet (mine spent as much time on top of my feet as they did under them).

Whenever we got to something that appeared to be the lookout for the waterfall we would find a group of bemused tourists standing on a rock staring around at the bush.

Eventually we found a section of “track” where there was a steep rock face that Dayna navigated by sliding down on her butt.  I thought to myself “what a silly girl, I can do that much better” and found a much shorter section to slide down.  Too bad I didn’t see the pile of horrid poop left by some unknown creature and slid right through it.  It’s a horrible feeling lifting your hand to your face to see what the sticky slimy stuff on it is and a huge stench informing you that your hand is, in fact, covered in crap.  It smelt fruity but there was A LOT of it so I have no idea what deposited it on the rock face.  My guess is some rare, dog-sized bat with a stomach bug.

We trucked on for a bit longer before finding a rock that we accepted as the lookout.  I still have no idea where the actual lookout was but here’s a photo of the waterfall anyway.

Elephant waterfall

View from what may or may not have been the lookout

By the time we were halfway back up the ‘Track from Hell’ I had started to smell quite ripe so we found a stream for me to wash off in.  I quickly gave up on the thought of staying at all dry and just deposited myself in the stream right before a small group of fellow travellers arrived.  I informed them that, in case they were wondering, I had sat in sh*t on the track and that was why I was sitting in the stream rubbing my butt.  One girl had a bit of a laugh and said she wondered how the pile of crap had been spread out so much by the time they came back up.  She quickly stopped laughing when it was pointed out that she was washing her hands downstream from my poop scrubbing.

Matt sat in poop

Scrubbing my butt

Eventually we moved on, me with a suspiciously wet behind, and made it to a unique little coffee roastery / rice wine distillery.  The unique part was the way the coffee was made there.  Weasels are involved.

Weasel

Weasel

The story we were told there was that, once upon a time, a guy had picked up some coffee beans off the ground (out of piles of poop) and roasted these up.  He discovered that these beans made much better coffee than normal so sought to replicate it again.  This is where the weasel’s came in.  They feed the weasels the coffee beans and wait for the weasels to do their part before going through their poop to scoop out all the, still intact, coffee beans to be roasted, ground and made in to cups of coffee.

Weasel's Poop

Weasel’s Poop

Obviously we decided this all sounded DELICIOUS and we had to get amongst it and try some.  At the time, I just thought it was fitting that I drink some poop after sitting in it earlier in the day but it turns out this is some rare, expensive poop coffee.

Weasel's poop coffee beans

Weasel’s poop coffee beans

From Wikipedia:

“The specialty Vietnamese weasel coffee, which is made by collecting coffee beans eaten by wild civets, is sold at $6600 per kilogram ($3000 per pound).Most customers are in Asia – especially Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.Sources vary widely as to annual worldwide production.  Some specialty coffee shops sell cups of brewed kopi luwak for US$35-80.”

Our verdict was that it was really strong, a bit too thick/syrupy and not particularly pleasant.  I wouldn’t quite say it tasted like sh*t though.  We only paid about $2.50 for a cup anyway so sounds like we got a bargain at least!

Dayna drinking weasel's poop coffee

Dayna drinking weasel’s poop coffee

At the same place as the Weasel poop coffee we also got to taste rice wine and rice whisky and see how it was made.  We had a few Russians on our trip who knocked back shots of the 70% ABV rice whisky as if it was nothing but I only managed a few sips.  It was strong (and nasty).  The rice wine was nice enough though.

The rest of our time in Dalat is already a bit of blur in my head so here is a blur of pictures for you too to sum it up.

Fried Crickets

Fried Crickets

Lizards...for eating

Lizards…for eating

Big buddha is big (that's Matt in the corner)

Big buddha is big (that’s Matt in the corner)

Crazy House

Crazy House

Didn't want my photo taken

Dayna being thrilled to be photographed at Dalat railway station

Matt having fun with the tree animals

At Dalat Flower Gardens, hanging out with the wildlife

Tune in next time for – Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta…

Nha Trang – Russians, Beaches, and Jesus

I think we were both not looking forward to leaving Hoi An especially since we’d be travelling 12 hours to Nha Trang by overnight bus. We had heard so many horror stories about the beds being too small, things being stolen, the bus being too crowded, or breaking down and of course, the driver driving the bus the same way they drive cars and motorbikes here (erratically and with very few rules). But the trip was essentially transport and a night’s accommodation for $22 each so we decided to go for it.

The stories were right about 2 things. The beds were way too small especially when we had a full carry on bag each to sleep next to. We were in the first row with Matt by the window and me in the middle. My bed was the smallest on the bus and I spent most of the night worried I’d roll off either side. At least I had a seat belt!

Not Made for 6ft tall boys

I got the smallest bed on the bus :(

Secondly, the driver. Oh my word. We left at 7pm which was a little early to go to sleep but I had to close my eyes just so I couldn’t see what was going on with the traffic. He was pretty standard for Asia (driving on the wrong side, passing within inches of oncoming vehicles, etc) but when all that’s done in a BUS, it takes terrifying to a whole new level.
Did you know it’s ok to pass a full logging truck on a solid white line while on the oldest, ricketiest bridge ever?

Me neither.

At least there was a flashing Jesus to protect me.

Flashing Jesus will protect me

Nha Trang wasn’t really what I was expecting at all. I knew it was a beach town where a lot of people go to party and enjoy the sun but besides that, there wasn’t much going on and it seemed like the locals were pretty jaded thanks to all the tourists. Apparently Nha Trang has one of the highest rates of pickpockets in the country and you kinda got that feeling just walking around.

One thing that really surprised us was the Russian influence on the town. Every single store front, hotel, restaurant sign would have the name in Vietnamese, Russian, then English. We hadn’t seen anything like it anywhere else in Vietnam – they would even have a special Russian menu and most of the locals spoke it more than English. It also meant we were subjected to some inappropriately small bathing suits while at the beach. Russians have no shame, that’s for sure!

We were only there for 2 days so we spent most of our time at the beach ($2 for a beach chair with umbrella) and eating food (had a really yummy indian meal at Ganesh).

Beach Toys

Enjoying his book

At the beach!

Beach

There was a bit of excitement one afternoon while we were lying in the beach chairs. A mouse decided to run around the beach and used our chairs as a place to hide. It was a pretty big mouse too but it was a bit too quick for my camera. It had people jumping around all over the place tho.

Oh yeah, and we got sunburnt AGAIN. Even though we tried SO HARD to be good and only spend a few minutes in the sun at one time. Lame. Our skin is now all different shades from white to red. Our next beach time won’t be until Thailand so we’ll have to work hard (and safely) to even out our multicoloured skin.

It’s Always Happy Hour in Hoi An

Hoi An was definitely a relaxing 5 days for us! Matt had a massage pretty much every day (very affordable at $12 a pop) and I had a couple mani/pedis ($9 for both) and a leg waxing experience ($12) I’ll never forget. Maybe they thought my legs were exceptionally hairy and that’s and that’s why 2 of them needed to wax me AT THE SAME TIME. It was mean and painful but it did mean they got the job done in half the time.

We stayed at a hotel with the nicest staff ever! Every time we left or came back to the hotel they remembered our names and asked us how our day was going. This is a 2 star hotel in Vietnam by the way (most of our hotels have been 2 star). For $30 a night (total) and free breakfast (which is pretty standard here), it’s not too shabby!

Our Room in Hoi An

Sunset from our room

The main reason we came to Hoi An was so Matt could get a tailor made suit for work. There are over 600 tailors in the tiny town so he struggled deciding on which one to go to. He finally chose Yaly as it got the best reviews even if it was a bit more ‘expensive’. By that I mean $145 USD for a quality custom made suit – not too bad really!

The food in Hoi An was another highlight. We’ve learnt that if a restaurant is full of white people then it means the place probably has a good review on TripAdvisor. So, we didn’t have a bad meal in Hoi An!

White Rose (shrimp dumplings)

Fresh Spring Rolls

Ate here twice

Yucky lemoncello

As I said in the title, it’s always Happy Hour in Hoi An but in our experience it’s best to avoid cocktails at this time. We ordered margaritas at one place thinking we were getting a good deal at 2 for $1 but there was NO tequila in it! Let down.
Beer is cheap though – Matt got a big Tiger (750ml) for 25000 dong or $1.50.

A couple watery cocktails and a giant Tiger later, we were approached by an Easy Rider. These guys take you around the area on their Honda motorbikes promising to show you the unseen parts of Vietnam. Matt was pretty keen for it (may have been the beer) and the guy seemed legit so we found ourselves agreeing to a half day tour to villages and Marble Mountain.

Matt and his Easyrider

Me and Mr Chinh

Temple

View from the top

Matt's Attempt

Mint

Motorbikes!

Crazy Ride Home

The only motorbikes I’ve been on our my uncles’ Harleys and these bikes were SO different. I feel secure in a Harley but in these bikes I felt like one wrong move and I was coming off the bike! It was a really cool experience though.

We felt like taking it easy so besides the tour, we rented Bicycles for an afternoon and went to the beach. It was lovely there but since we were both scared to get burnt again we stayed in the shade.

Me drinking one of my fav things

Cua Dai Beach

Matt also started to hear from recruiters in the UK while we were in Hoi An which is both a good and bad thing. Good, because he’s been put forward for a couple roles and it would be such a relief if he had a job to go to as soon as or shortly after we arrived. Bad, because we’re still on holiday and don’t want to think about real life for at least a couple more weeks!

To take our mind off it, we ate and walked around the town at night.

Check out the massive frog I nearly stepped on – isn’t it cute (I thought it was a rat at first)!

Biggest frog EVER

Bridge Reflection

Lanterns

Boy selling candles

Floating candles

Hoi An is by far my favourite place in Vietnam and I’d go back in a heartbeat!

*As always, HEAPS more photos can be found here on Flickr.

Shuffling around Sapa

Kia Ora from Hoi An, or as Dayna likes to call it “Hanoi” (understandable I guess since it’s just the same word rearranged).

It feels like we’ve done a lot of travelling since our last blog so here’s a bit of a run down on our last few days…

After the beauty of Halong bay we made another side trip from Hanoi to discover the beauty of Sapa, a small town in northern Vietnam near the border with China.

The main way in and out of Sapa is by a 9 hour train ride so we got our first taste of overnight trains but these ones were pretty flash tourist cabins.  I had a pretty good sleep on the train once I found where I had hidden my earplugs (the train was super noisy).

Our first overnight train

We arrived just after 5am in to a misty Lao Cai station, about an hours drive from Sapa.  The windy road up in to the hills took us deeper in to the misty fog so that, by the time we arrived, it felt like we were in the middle of the clouds.

Our initial, “slightly obscured”, view from our hotel reminded us of our trip to the Blue Mountains near Sydney a few years ago (where everything was hidden by fog).  The fog didn’t lift for the whole first day so we just shuffled around in the fog exploring the town.  Through the markets we walked past a stall with a cooked dog’s head on a stick and I nearly stood on a slightly bloated dead cat laying in the street but, other than that (and the constant squawking of local touts), it’s a nice place.

View from hotel - Day 1

Luckily for us, the weather decided to stop taunting us on our second day in Sapa and we had a fine day to go out trekking through the rice terraces, hills and villages (the main attraction of Sapa).

View from Hotel - Day 2

Our local guide was a very cute local Hmong girl who only came up to about my belly button (I’m tall in Asia anyway but in Sapa, I am a giant).  Turns out you don’t really need a guide as you can just follow the “Gringo trail” of tourists but she was good value and taught us a few interesting things.

Our Guide

She would point out all the different crops and plants like corn, different types of potato, ginger, chillies and this one here.

Yep, that's some Mary Jane! Used for clothing

Actually just used for making fabric

The temperature in Sapa was a huge relief after Hanoi (and pretty much everywhere else in Asia).  It hovered in the mid to high 20’s so it was perfect for hiking around trails.  We even got to wear jerseys at night and not completely melt (even putting on a shirt has been hard lately).

The endless terraces of rice paddies were beautiful and the photos we took don’t really do it justice but here are a couple from our trekking.

Matt

Rice Paddies

Even more paddies!

Me and the waterfall

And there were animals all over the place…

Cute Chick

Tired Momma

Puppy, Ox, and Chicken

Pretty much a children’s book in the making here…

We spent another day in Sapa trekking around ourselves without a guide and managed to avoid the local touts as well.  These guys have a slight variation on their approach (as we’ve found most regions do) and their’s is basically to just follow you around the whole day befriending you (even on a long trek with their baby on their back) then ask you to buy stuff from them.

Unfortunately for them, we’re unemployed and therefore pretty stingy so they got nothing out of us.  We’re pretty good at the “No, thank you” *smile, shake head* “No, thank you, we’re not shopping” (rinse and repeat until they give up or just change to ignoring them completely).  This is getting a little boring though so I’ve started saying no in every language I know so that makes it a little more fun.

We’ve also thought of another approach to the really persistent guys that we’re calling “the angry german” (borrowed from Hitler in  “Inglorious Basterds” – clip below in case you have no idea what I’m talking about).

We haven’t used this approach yet but it will probably happen at some point.  Might be good for a laugh and  who knows, maybe it will work.

After the overnight train from Sapa, we had decided to torture ourselves by setting up another overnight train for the next night.  The hotel we stayed at in Hanoi was awesome and let us have breakfast and a shower for free but since we arrived at 4:30am and didn’t leave again until 7pm, we had a lot of time to kill.

We spent the day like we did most of our days in Hanoi – walking around getting lost, going to museums, dodging traffic and eating A LOT.  The museums have been a bit of a let down so far (not much on show other than photos and propaganda) but the food is awesome.  Even just walking around here is fun though.  I always tell Dayna the best way to see a city is to get lost in it and we’ve taken to that concept completely here.

Our overnight train to Danang was in a more budget 6 berth hard sleeper cabin shared with 4 locals (for 15 hours!).  They seemed nice but our only conversation with them didn’t go very far when we realised we couldn’t understand a word the other said.  Smiling and nodding sufficed for the rest of our journey.

There were some breathtaking views as we went along the coast early in the morning which gave way to the rather boring looking Danang.  Thankfully we weren’t hanging around so here we are in Hoi An, a beautiful little town near the beach (on which I am writing this) on the central coast of Vietnam).

It’s pretty hot here (36 degrees today) so about time for us to find a happy hour somewhere I think!

More the Fun! In Halong Bay

Oh you guys, I am absolutely LOVING Vietnam so far and from what I’ve heard it’s meant to get even better. This was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to (followed closely by Cambodia) so I’m really happy that whatever expectations I had are being met and even exceeded!

Boats in the Harbour
We had a really good time on our Halong Bay cruise. It was for 3 days and 2 nights and we got to sleep on the boat which was a lot better than I was expecting. One of the great things about Halong Bay is that it’s usually pretty calm so on the big boat I barely noticed it rocking back and forth.

We got the room right next to the dining/dance floor (yes, dance floor on the boat. It lit up and everything!) so we were worried that we’d be kept up by all the partiers with this being a Party Cruise and all. Definitely wasn’t the case as we absolutely lucked out with the other guests on the boat!

Our room

Funny thing about our room, the bathroom door was glass so you could clearly see who was on the toilet.

The bathroom. The door isn't really doing it's job

The first night it was us, a group of 6 Aussie guys, and another couple. Oh yeah, and two very entertaining gay Russians. They seemed to prefer each others company more than ours so we didn’t see much of them (and the language barrier didn’t help either). They did provide us with a couple funny moments – at dinner one of them showed up drunk on the vodka they brought with them, wearing a captain’s hat and Aladdin’s pants, then proclaimed that “This is going to be FUN” in the thickest Russian accent you can imagine (accompanied by a sweet little dance move). We didn’t see him for the rest of the night.

Back to the other people – we were all relatively the same age and had a lot in common so we all got on really well. So the ‘Party Cruise’ was more of a ‘Chill Out On The Deck Talking While Drinking Beer and Watery Cocktails.’ We also did a lot of squid fishing which involved shining a light at the water to attract the squid then jigging the hook/lure until one was hooked. I can’t believe I didn’t get any video or photos of it tho! It was so funny, after they were caught, they’d just start squirting ink all over the place! Couldn’t bring them into the boat until they were done unless you wanted to be covered in ink. Matt managed to catch a Cuttlefish that was twice as big as any of the squid!

Another popular activity was jumping off the boat into the water. The ledge was about 8 metres over the water not to mention that you had to time your jump in order to advoid the jelly fish. Needless to say, I didn’t partake, but Matt did! You can see he’s really nervous in the video but after this jump he did it a few more times without hesitation!

Our Boat

Favourite photo

Amy and Lawrence

Matt jumping!

And with that we checked off our first item on our 100 things list – Swim in Ha Long Bay (although my swim wasn’t nearly as exciting as Matt’s was).

We had 3 different guides over the course of 3 days – Chien, Squid Man, and Jeremy (although he pronounced it Germy so that could’ve been his real name). Each were awesome in their own right. Chien spoke the best english and was really chilled out. He told us some interesting stories and tried really hard to get karaoke started but with no luck. Squid Man was very stylish with his long in the front haircut and black skinny jeans. He was also the squid catching master and that’s where he got the nickname (obviously). And Jeremy was so EXCITED and ENERGETIC and we COULDN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD OUT OF HIS MOUTH. He spoke so FAST that we came to the conclusion that he only said half of the word before moving onto the next. For example, ‘Party Cruise’ was actually ‘Party Cru’ and ‘Summer Roll’ was ‘Sum Ro.’ His best line is the title of this post. He was (attempting) to let us know the itinerary for the day and ended his speech by pumping his fist, smiling wide and saying, “MORE THE FUN!”
We couldn’t stop laughing.

Here’s a little clip of him giving us a cooking demonstration. Bonus points to anyone who can decipher whatever’s coming out of his mouth. It gets real confusing at the 30 second mark…

Yeah, I don’t know either.

Here’s me showing off my spring roll skills…

Anyway, the main reason we were there was to take in Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 2nd on the list of 7 Natural Wonders of the World. It lived up to the hype, believe me.

More Island

Matthew

On the boat

Even with spending 3 days out there, I couldn’t get over how georgeous it was.

Sunset Boat

We had heard that it can get a bit crowded with boats and tourists but we must have gone in quiet season cause there were hardly any boats around. And if there were, they were nowhere near us!

The only complaints that I have are pretty minor – 3 years ago the government said that all the boats had to be painted white. In order to get papers and continue operating, all the boats did a poor paint job so what were gorgeous wooden boats are now covered in peeling white paint. And the second was the garbage floating the water. Not too bad now but give it 5 years without a good clean up and the beauty of all the islands will be ruined.

There were also a couple caves that we visited – Surprising Cave was the most popular and beautiful.

The opening where a guy first found the cave

Surprising Cave

The cruise and Halong Bay was so much better than Matt and I thought it would be. I’d definitely recommend the Party Cruise but the people in your group will make all the difference!