Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Day 9: Adventures galore (Saturday, July 5)

If you compare dates, you'll notice that I'm seriously lagging on finishing up my holiday postings. I have two days before I have to fly back to Hong Kong and my real life, so I will persevere. I will not allow this blog to become another box of photos that need to be put in an album. So, resolutions aside, back to the holiday.
After today I have greater respect for all the backpack kids who travel for six months or a year all over Asia. They party every night and sightsee every day, but I think partying at night is quite incompatible with great mornings and afternoons. And it's not just because I'm old - I've always thought so. But today I did it all anyway.

We woke up this morning to the most gorgeous views of Halong Bay. I posted a few of them in the last post and may cheat and stick some into my HK blog next school year when life seems especially dreary. It was great going along in the sunshine, completely unconcerned about timing or destination. I guess that's what I like best about tours. It's like being a bad kid on a field trip who ignores the teachers and just hangs out with her friends.We met up on another boat with a bunch of other people from our bus and spent the morning riding around Cat Ba island and being taken down a tidal river through mangrove swamps to a quiet cave. I spent most of the time hearing fascinating stories from Derbhla about her experiences volunteering with special needs kids in Belarus. We had a great lunch in a bamboo hut on stilts over the swamps and then were dropped off in the town to amuse ourselves until supper.

Scott, Elodie, Daniel and I decided to rent scooters to ride around the island. As we were walking down the street, a guy swooped over to see if we wanted to rent a bike. Scott negotiated price ($3 US each for 3 hours plus petrol) and the other guy motioned for three of his friends to come over so we'd have enough scooters. We handed over the money; they handed over helmets, and off we drove. We didn't give names, passports, driving licenses, name of hotel, nothing! I hadn't ridden a scooter since Martita taught me to ride hers in 1985 and it was a little weird shifting without using a clutch, but once we started off, it was glorious!

It reminded me of how when a bunch of us went to the Dominican Republic my senior year of high school, on an afternoon we had free from building, the teacher rented us a bunch of motorcycles. It sounds completely mad now, but he paired everyone up so there was a driver and a rider, usually a boy on the front and a girl on the back. He took the lead and made everyone stay behind him, but that was the extent of the safety precautions. Here we were, fifteen or so high school kids roaring around the back roads through sugar cane fields on motorcycles! We didn't have helmets or anything and we were all in shorts.
I had a helmet on today, though, but I was in shorts and a bit worried about it. I guess I am getting old. Cat Ba island is mainly a national park, so the cliffs and jungle was gorgeous. There were awesome vines for Tarzaning, but we just cruised around blissfully. That is, we were carefree until Elodie crashed and broke her scooter's kickstand off. It started to stress me out, but it was nice to realize that it really wasn't something I had to sort out. (In the end it cost her $6 US.)

After settling that transaction, we drank beer and coconut milk (not together) by the harbor as night came on, then changed for dinner. We ate, drank, danced and closed down the disco in town. I went to bed at around one and missed the drama of escorting some falling down Irish friends all over town looking for their hotel. I guess I am old - always going to bed before the excitement starts. (There are pictures of some of the wild times on Facebook, but I'm just putting the picturesque here.)

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