I'd met up with a large group of backpackers, mainly American, who had all worked as camp counsellors this summer in The Tyler Place, in Vermont I believe. Their trip around SE Asia was reward for looking after the brats of New Enlgand.
After having shared a couple of beers with Rem & Meredith and their crew, I was invited to join them the next day on the obligatory excursion to Halong Bay. We plumbed of a two day/one night trip and got the 3 hour transfer bus out to Halong City to find our boat. The trip cost about $75 including food, but not drink. So we stocked up on booze before leaving Hanoi - I had a feeling this could get a bit raucous, not least because it was Joanna's birthday that night.
The first day was a little cloudy, but nevertheless beautiful. We surveyed the glorious marine karst formations from the deck of our boat, then explored (with several hundred other tourists) one of the huge caves that are so prevalent in this kind of geological area.
Then we were dropped on the beach of one of the taller islands, and hiked to the top from where we could survey some of the 1969 islands (and almost as many boats) that pepper this and the neighbouring bay.
After dinner on board, a spot of squid fishing from the back deck. We saw one and caught none.
Then a predictably raucous game of cards with my new friends and serious amounts of beer and hard liquor. Not enough to sink a battleship, but enough to sink me.
The following morning brought beautiful sunny weather, a familiar pain in the head and some unusual bruising. We were ushered into Kayaks and paddled our way through a low broad hole in a cliff face into a secret bay, surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs, dripping with tropical foliage. Within seconds I'd forgotten my hangover, this place was stunning, and reminiscent of the hidden location in Alex Garland's "The Beach", discoverable only at low tide, except there wasn't actually any beach here. Whatever, it was great. From there a gentle sunny cruise on the top deck, back to the shore and from there to Hanoi.