When I got up today at SCST (my new acronym for Soul-Crushing Six Thirty) the view was definitely clearer. It was still misty and overcast, but you could see further along in the distance. When you can actually see what’s around you, the landscape is magnificent: we sailed all morning and as far as the eye could see were only rock formations and the occasional cruise ship. It’s hard to overstate just how vast this whole area is.
We started the day with a Tai Chi class on deck, followed by breakfast (Vietnamese soup or eggs, at seven in the morning; thank my lucky stars that I was able to get some toast). I went up on the deck and took some pictures of the view. The mist was rolling away on the surface of the water, and the birds chirped unseen, like you would expect from a Chinese myth.
Our main and last activity for the morning was to disembark at a small beach (most formations are just rocks jutting out from the water, so seeing a beach is pretty rare). When the weather’s nice it must be very relaxing to lie down or swim in the water -not that I would do that, even then; saw plastic bags and a jellyfish the size of a sports bag- but as it were we went up some steep steps up the mountain and into a cave. Our guides gave us some disjointed explanations in barely intelligible English. Perhaps they were interesting, I wouldn’t know. They spoke several times about “Sala Thai” and “Sala May” until it hit me that they were saying stalactite and stalagmite. The cave itself wasn’t impressive, but it was good to get on one of the islands. They are deceivingly tall, moreso than they look in the pictures, and are made of sheer rock and trees.
Oddly enough this was the one spot all trip where my phone hooked up to a 3G signal, so I took the chance to read the updates from the previous day. It was 2AM in Europe so fat chance of catching up with anybody, but at least I could see some news before going back on board.
I’m now writing this from the deck as we go back to the harbour. Already I can see the shore and a city on it in the distance. It was certainly the right choice to book the 2D/1N cruise rather than the 3D/2N one; even if the weather had been great, I think there’s only so many hours you can look at the same landscape, however impressive, and the food was so disappointing. I’m ready for the next leg of my trip, although not looking forward to the 4h drive back to Hanoi!
Aaand indeed that took forever. It’s a long enough trip on its own, but they also made us stop at a place called Yen Duc for a water puppet show. Water puppets are apparently one of Vietnam’s ancient arts, along with ca tru (a type of opera singing), but this was a thoroughly touristy affair that as far as most of us there were concerned just derailed us for thirty minutes. It wasn’t until 17:00 that we got back to Hanoi.
I’m back at the hotel now. I have a couple of hours to kill before I have to leave for the overnight train to Sapa, the next leg of my trip. That seems poised to be another adventure!