Our hotel provided tours to Halong Bay (a UNESCO world heritage site). A bay. That meant water. That meant a swum. Huzzah!
The journey out to the bay was by a mostly air-conditioned mini-bus, going along at a most moderate pace. It's quite something to be in a vehice with a large engine, on the motorway, and be passed by scooters let me tell you. Making the obligatory stop for "toilet needs" aka "buy these souvenirs", we clambered out of the mini-bus and realised how stinking hot it really was. C'mon the Bay!
Arriving at the marina, we were greeted by the sight of many an old junket both unloading passengers and preparing for the new. Ah, what cramped chaos! However with very little ado we were pointed in the direction of a particularly glorious ship and left to our own devices.
Shortly after departure, a delightful luncheon was served. Rice abounded with the odd veg and a sumptuous steamed fish. What better way to start the expedition, bellies full, faces beaming, witty conversation, eager expection.
First stop on the exploration of the Bay was a cave. A big cave. Apparently quite famous and well visited and well loved. I'm a cave snob. I expect caves to be dark and gloomy and well... a bit scary. This one was lit up with pretty colours. Visitors were thoughtfully catered for with a cobbled path to follow, complete with stairs and safety railing. To my oh-so-cynical eye the rocks beside said path looked suspiciously like concrete. And as it was beer o'clock we informed our wee guide that we were heading back to our wooden ship and would wait for him and the rest of our group there. Leave it to the Maori and the Irish to mutiny for drink!
We got back to the mini-marina near the cave only to discover that our junket had made way for others and was now too far to sensibly leap onboard. Enterprising as we Maori and Irish are (or is it that we just enjoy shinnanigans?), we spotted that our ship was accesible via two others. Not observing any kind of nautical ettiquette, we baorded the first ship, informed the staff we were just passing through, and clambered over his and the next boat to get to ours. The staff on our boat were most surprised to see us and panicked. They thought that they had buggered up and our group was back early. We tried to explain, but it was lost in translation, so we settled down to cold beers and awaited the arrival of the intrepid cave explorers.
The rest of the day was passed with more cold beers and whining about the lack of a swim (a la kids in cars- "are we there yet?").
Finally we arrived at the designated swimming area. And in true maori style we were the first in and the last out. The young fulla managing to educate everyone on the value of knowing where he is before he decides to bomb off the top level of the boat. The Vietnamese loved it though and tried abismally to get him back more than once. The Aussie was full of admiration for technique and the landlocked Europeans had never seen anything like it and took many a photo. With dinner and sunset approaching we were asked to get out and have a shower. Yeah we couldn't believe it either and chose to ignore the advice. That was until a dastardly jellyfish decided to join the party. With little fanfare he/she/it wrapped my wrist with its tentacles and left wonderfully round welts to remind me of its passing. Bugger!
So we boarded, had a lovely dinner and watched a colourful sunset. A most glorious ending to the day!