there’s something about us and islands

Continuing our tour of places beginning with the letter “H”, we headed to beautiful Halong Bay. Having taken some advice from the ever wise Ryan & Jo, whose experiences before us we tend to sponge off to make our own lives easier, and the occasionally wise Thorntree, we decided to go it on our own rather than sign on to what was inevitably going to be a disappointing budget tour from Hanoi.
Two buses, a boat and another bus found us at Cat Ba Island and a day tour of the bay the next day allowed us plenty of time for swimming, eating squid, splashing about in kayaks and exploring fluorescently lit caves. The next few days saw us rained in, Phu Quoc-stylie, but that allowed us plenty of time for watching the US Open and straight-to-video Save the Last Dance 2 and sinking decidedly average Dalat red with a Cuban-Scot lass named Lindsay, some cool Israelis and an Irish nutritionist who was genuinely concerned about Linds’ dramatic weight loss (this is starting to sound like the opening line of a politically incorrect joke). His explanation that he was a “fat bastard” before we left home didn’t really cut it and resulted in us both receiving a lecture about the value of multivitamins and rehydrating solutions. More wine, I say.
Travel upon numerous land and sea vessels back to the mainland left us homeless for the day in Hanoi while we waited for our night train to Sapa. Pastries and a gaggle of conscientous and adorable uni students wanting to practice their English kept us well entertained for the afternoon. Any conversation with non-Australians invariably drifts to kangaroos and we take cruel delight in the looks of horror on people’s faces when we explain that they are indeed very delicious.
I had felt mildly annoyed by my lack of resistance to the sales push for a fancy and more expensive soft sleeper berth on the night train but thankfully, this evaporated the minute we laid eyes on the plush (by our standards, at least) carriage. And thus began our hopeless and continuing addiction to the Israeli card game, Yaniv, peddled to us by our delightful and irrepressible cabin mates, Michaella and Nihv, who lured us in with offers of cocktail nuts.
Sapa is a former hill station nestled in the Tonkinese Alps and like true colonials, we’ve revelled in playing cards on the balcony in the sun and sleeping under a doona for the first time in months. A necessary period of convalescence has kept us from hiking beyond the door to the patisserie but we might go check out a waterfall thingy tomorrow, conveniently located on the same road as the patisserie and it’s foggy and piddling with rain today so it’s pastry o’clock.

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