Halong Bay, Masterpiece Trip 2017, Vietnam

What The?!? (Halong Bay Day One)

I woke up at 1:00 a.m.. It only took a few seconds to figure out why I was awake: the air conditioning had stopped. I was a sweaty Betty. It was like a little hot box in there. The rooms do not have fans, so you have to totally rely on the air conditioning. I gave a huge sigh and realized Sal was awake, too, when he asked what was the matter. We talked about what to do, and while we were talking someone tried to enter our room. What the?! It scared the you-know-what (crap) out of me. Sal yelled, “Hello?” and nobody said anything. I went over to the peephole to look out, and saw that the peephole doesn’t work at all. I told you this boat needs a bit of a refurbish.

Sal fiddled with the air conditioning and couldn’t get it started again. There was no way I’d be able to fall asleep in there, so he kindly got dressed and went to look for someone to help. I got dressed, too, as the worker would be coming back into the room and I thought he didn’t need to see me in my PJs. While I was laying there the AC beeped and sounded like it was coming back on. About 20 seconds later Sal walked in with the worker, who looked like he had just woken up, but Sal assured me he had been awake and on duty. He fiddled a little with the control and said, “hot or cold?”. Really? I mean, I know it’s basically getting into Winter as far as they are concerned, but as far we we are concerned it’s hot as balls. We thanked him and went to bed to a cooling room, thankfully. Later we would find out it was either on a timer or something that didn’t reset correctly.

We woke up very tired. The bed was small, which was fine, but it was also probably our most uncomfortable bed up to that point (spoiler alert: it gets worse!). Breakfast was yummy, though. The weather the whole time was overcast. It brought a certain gloominess to the Bay that made it seem more mysterious. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s like when they say if it rains on your wedding day it’s good luck.

The boat was divided into two groups – the single day and the double. The doubles were having a day on the day boat with kayaking and swimming. There were only eight of us and we had a boat big enough for probably three to four times that many. It was nice to have room to spread out. The views? They were amazing.

img_20171115_1221268251396082595259988.jpgimg_20171115_1218173630753238780214275.jpg00008img_00008_burst20171115114546_cover525910069252978175.jpgAnd here’s a video. And another one. And a third.

After checking in at a floating location where you paid some sort of entrance fee, we picked up the kayaks and it was time to see what we could see. To get into the kayak we had to lower ourselves down from this sub-par ladder. I had trouble even getting myself over the ladder! I had no idea how the people with the little legs did it. Once I did, trying to find the thin round metal rungs was a challenge. The ladder was right against the boat so it wasn’t like you could have a little room to put your foot in to get a good grip. I kept feeling like I was going to slip off and fall into the kayak/water. I eventually did it, though, and let out a sigh of relief. Sal said, “It will be a lot easier when you can see the ladder getting back on the boat”. You know what’s going to happen, right?

We got in the kayaks, which had no back rests. Ouch. At least the other times we did it there was some support. I found I had to cross my legs and sit that way, which made paddling more difficult because my legs were in the way. I couldn’t have done it the other way as it hurt my back too much. The couple from Seattle were kayaking for the first time and he was having problems with his lower back until he literally sat on the back of the boat. We didn’t do that great with the steering. I was in the front paddling and paddling and we’d start going the wrong way. Sal suggested I try steering, after hearing my grumbles. No way! I know I’d suck. We eventually got to a small beach (that is only available during low tide) where he said we could swim. Since I was already wet from the boat and I had to pee, I thought it was a good idea. The water was cold. We were the only ones on the little beach that didn’t have towels. We stayed there for a bit and eventually it was time to paddle back to the boat. At first it was fine, but then between the wind and whatnot it became much harder. Henry, the guide, told us to stick near the island to avoid the wind. We didn’t, because it was hard for Sal to adjust the steering. I just wanted to get back to the boat at that point, even though the rest of the group was going to see a cave. I wanted to get back and dry off and get warm.

We got to the boat and I wondered how the hell I was going to get up the ladder. First of all, trying to stand up on the kayak was a bit tricky. Then trying to pull yourself up a ladder that is slippery and with thin rungs? Forget it. It was not easier than getting down, it was much harder for me. My legs were about the perfect length that my knee was getting stuck/wedged at one point in the ladder when I tried to get up to the next rung. Sal was trying to coach from the boat, but it wasn’t really helping at first because he could only see one side of how I was trying to get up. I kept feeling like I was going to slip back onto the kayak or the water and really hurt myself. I don’t think the crew knew what to do. At one point of them the got on the boat and tried to pick up the stuck knee, but it just made it worse. Another part of the problem was that the ladder was almost flush against the boat, which made getting a grip very difficult. I have neuropathy in my feet, so that added to the challenge.

It was so frustrating and humiliating. I finally got up after what seemed like 10 minutes (Sal said it wasn’t that long), hoisting myself up on bent knee, to the top railing of the boat. It hurt. My legs weren’t supposed to bend that way. Once I was over the railing I immediately went and got a towel, sat in a corner, and covered my face and cried. When Sal went up he saw a part on the other side of the ladder (he couldn’t see it from the kayak) that I could have leveraged myself up without having to use the crappy rung. That’s the problem when you don’t speak the same language as the crew – they can’t really give you any helpful directions and you flounder. Or at least I did. It was very embarrassing to me and frustrating.

Our next stop was going to be a beach for lunch. I told Sal that if the only way off the boat was that ladder on the side of the boat, forget it. I’d stay on the boat. I was not doing that again. Sal went and asked and there was a chance it would be that crappy ladder, depending on the tide. Luckily by the time we got there the tide was such that we could just slip off the front of the boat to the rocks below. Of courses after I got down I did wonder how the hell we were going to get back on the boat again. I was told that the tide would probably rise, making it easier. More foreshadowing.

We walked over a small hill to the private beach, which was quite beautiful.

img_20171115_1236033052828764801704181.jpgimg_20171115_1236164289055009415265371.jpgTo add to it, there was a puppy!! **pic** so cute. That little puppy was a little rascal, going around biting on people’s toes, etc. She was super cute, though, and a chubby dubby.

img_20171115_1238431476806834798332569.jpg
Blurry action shot of biting pup!
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She loved Sal and followed him around a bit after he wrestled with her.

The crew made us a tasty lunch, which included french fries for some reason. Sorta funny. It was tasty, though.

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After lunch people chilled out on the beach, taking naps or reading. It was too cold to go swimming. Eventually it was time to go back to the boat. I wanted to be last so I could see how everyone else was doing it. Thankfully we were getting up via the front of the boat. They had a ladder wedged to the front of the boat for people to walk up, while someone held the ladder. It was a bit tricky because the tide moved the boat, which of course moved the ladder, and readjustments had to be made. I got up there easily with no problem! It’s easy when your feet actually have room to go through the rungs! I got to the top and the female worker said, “Good! Good!” while she patted me on the shoulder. I’m sure they were concerned about me and didn’t want a repeat of earlier. Sorta funny. Later on I saw the same woman playing Candy Crush, so I got out my phone and showed her 400 level my 2000+ level. She was quite impressed, so maybe I got a tiny bit of my dignity back. Maybe.

Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20171115114546-1.gifIt was time to head back to the big boat, which was absolutely fine with me. I didn’t want anymore ladders. While we were on the way and relaxing alone on the top of the boat, Henry came up to tell us that there was a box for tipping downstairs, but he was separate from that. We were like, “Okaaaay.” Of course we didn’t have enough money because we thought Henry was actually part of the cruise so we had only brought money for drinks. We borrowed some from the Seattle folks and paid them back on the boat.

Once we got back to the main boat they said people could kayak again. The wind had picked up, though, and I was finally dry. We went to the sunset party/happy hour, which was also cold and windy. Dinner was delicious again, though, and this time we ate with all the people we had spent the day with. It was a good crew and we had fun telling stories (especially Sal!) and laughing together. We went to bed early – Sal had been feeling like he was fighting something off the last few days. More foreshadowing!    

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