Coral Cove Calamities

Ha Long Bay Castaway Island Cruise

Morning was greeted to the sound of a furiously beaten gong… just what an island of hungover people need to hear. After breakfast had been dispatched we got on the beer pong, well why not eh? (oh, I’ve picked up some Canadian slag, eh!) I knew that drinking and being drunk on the cruise would be a bad idea for me so I didn’t bother after that first round of beer pong. I was rubbish as it turned out anyway. Leemee (I don’t know how to spell his name other than phonetically) and I teamed up last night and we didn’t get to finish a game against Big Bear and Mike so that had to be settled. I must have lost the mad skills that I spent 2 summers in France developing.

The pleasure boat arrived and the music started. We loaded up with food and beer and set sail. It was amazing phut phut phutting around the bay. All the rocks were spectacular and I longed to climb them. I made do by mentally new routing the hell out of all the crack systems and bubbly pocketed limestone. I reckon I can Mental Climb™ to at least E3 now. New PB. I vow to come back here and actually climb something when (not if) I get the chance. I am glad there were games and dancing to be done. Drifting along seeing the rocks and the floating villages is amazing. There are a lot citation required of islands in the archipelago and while they are all amazing and don’t lose their appeal they all start to look the same. I felt fine while we were within the protection of the bays but we had to cross a less protected stretch of water and it got a bit choppy. Soon I was feeling the effects of the heaving boat and heaving myself but managed to keep my breakfast – much to Mike and the GoPro’s disappointment.

We got to our destination – I’ve no idea where it was but it was a very well protected cove. My stomach returned to normality and it was time for kayaking. We all spent some time jumping in off the roof of the boat and partying. Mike nailed a backflip, I was tempted to give it a go until he tried a double backflip and landed smack on his back. Instantly regretting it, he went and sat quietly in a corner for a while. We kayaked out to the rocks and the guide took us through a cave network. If we thought the rocks were amazing from far away they only got better close up. My Mental Climbing™ skills went into overdrive through the cave roofs. Mike and I were the laat into a tandem kayak and being strong lads we powered off to catch up. A little too much power snapped the head off the paddle and I had to gingerly return and get a new one, oops.

I’m going to keep saying it – the scenery is spectacular. It is so surreal it’s like drifting through a dream. It physically feels weird like it isn’t quite real, but that might just be my jelly belly.

On the way to a totally enclosed cove we dicked about in the kayak, its been so long since either of us were in sea scouts, it was nice to be back in one. We found Leemee standing in his boat peeing off the edge so we snuck up behind him and bumped it. Somehow he managed to stay in the boat and swiftly returned for vengeance by stealing our bag of beers.

Through the last cave, and suddenly we were surrounded by rock walls. On all sides were steep rock faces and jungle covering the tops of the mountains. We all rafted up while one of the guys got his drone out and did a pass by of us. I bet he got some amazing footage – I’m going to have to nab that for my video! While trying to retrieve our bag of been we capsized. Not normally a problem, but this cove is only accessible at low tide. We both fell on sharp coral and scratched ourselves up. Weeping blood, we got back in the kayak and headed back to the cruise boat for lunch.

The next stop was back near the castaway cove on a tiny rock island with a sandy beach. The whole boat (nearly) jumped into the water and swam ashore. We explored the island a bit. Mike and I found some bouldering to do. We only managed to show off how out of season we were, we blamed it on not having rock shoes however. The rock is so virgin that it is like climbing on razor blades. Amazing climbing but painful! Our guide, Nicole, incited some more drinking with a high inappropriate cheer. This was the only drink I had had all day because it was the first time we had been back on dry land!

It was time to return to base, just around the corner. Everyone except me was steaming drunk which was hilarious. The floating jetty that had to be traversed was especially hard work for people. We decided to earthquake test it by rocking it violently. The only casualty was Mike who did a slow-mo overbalance and fall into the water on his back. We found out now why the guides said not to jump off the jetty, when Mike surfaced, his back was cut up pretty bad by the coral. The whole place erupted with laughter.

I was sober so decided to head out on the wakeboard boat again for one more go. I really like wakeboarding, I might take it up as a sport back home. People had said it was like snowboarding on water but I was terrible at snowboarding, this I could do first time. I tried to switch sides again so my other leg was leading but I just wiped out immediately. The front edge of the board caught a ripple and slammed me face first into the water. It was light the biggest bitch-slap of my life! Head pounding I got up on the wake several more times. I managed one handed and to cross the bow wave. After a good session I was getting tired so last go was as long as I could make it. Skipping across the surface I pulled out wide and let go of the tow line. I stayed upright as I came to a stop and slowly sank, looking like the boss I felt like.

Chortle had not reappeared despite our repeated attempts to find him. We suspected something was not right. After talking to the guides and vietnamese staff, they told me that the horse was infact a paper offering to support dead relatives in the afterlife….. awkward. I’m all up for making an ass out of myself and joking around but I never wanted to offend anyone. Turns out paper objects are burnt as offerings to send their dead relatives the things they will need in the next life. You can buy paper clothes, houses, cars, horses, even paper iPhones and money. We had seen the paper money on each households shrine but whenever we asked the explanation had not made much sense, probably because, in our ignorance, we cannot understand the language. After that was explained to us, we felt a bit bad about the whole thing but what is done is done.

The flowers on the other hand had a fantastic purpose to fulfil. The castaway island had experienced something entirely new, for the first time in its history, two people had met and fallen in love. Mostly they just loved having sex, but none the less it was proclaimed as (tongue in cheek) love! A proposition had been accepted, the flowers gathered, a mock wedding entourage assembled and ceremony performed. It was a beautiful event and the flowers were distributed far and wide – absolutely destroyed.