Sapa mud and Halong Bay nightmare

IMG_3842July 23, 2015

It’s a rather wet day in Sapa. Overall, we’ve been lucky with the weather. I like it best when it’s overcast. The air here is much cooler than in Hanoi. Not looking forward to going back to scooter city. First, we’ll be leaving for Ha Long Bay on the same day. The six days we’ve spent in Vietnam so far feel like two weeks. We’ve been out and about non-stop.

I certainly don’t miss Hanoi. And I probably won’t miss the local gypsies in Sapa, except for our lovely guide. The gypsies follow you on your hikes and try to sell you their handmade crafts. They’re well-trained salespeople; you wouldn’t think that because they hike in flip-flops.

So far, I wouldn’t want to re-visit northern Vietnam. My main struggle is the food, which is nice; however, no cereal and oatmeal mean no iron, calcium and magnesium. My nails are weak, and I’m losing hair like never before. Bones and muscles will grow weak next. My body is taking time to adapt to the change. So far, I still have strength. If I look at how tiny and skinny these people are, I wonder how they’d cope in the western world.

Even though my skin is ok with the humidity, it’s uncomfortable. The new tan will make me look less Chinese. I’m not happy about that. Interestingly, Vietnamese people couldn’t quite work out my ethnicity. They all have larger eyes here, like most Koreans or Japanese. Some northern Vietnamese people are of Chinese descent, but Sapa seems to its own people. Once they know I’m not Vietnamese; they ultimately think that I’m Chinese and seem to hate my guts.

I feel like I’m a mess in my head. There’s been many hectic moments, humid heat, culture shock, etc., that I somehow grew numb and pathetic. I didn’t want affection or sex, yet I got jealous of the pretty girls L. was talking to or looked at. I’ve been longing for alone time with my laptop, journal and music, but I’m having none of that. And I’m not relaxed, either. It’s no surprise to me that I’m hard to travel with.

Again, it’s my body adapting to the fact that I’m not working out or doing (hot) yoga, my stress release and body detoxer. I don’t know what to do with myself. No meditation either. My head is a mess! I’m missing the elements of my routine life, and I’m finding it hard to adapt to a culture that is so unknown to me.

However, I’m not as bad as I thought I would be, but I still feel sorry for L. having to put up with me because I’m a terrible travel companion. I can be sociable if I want to be, but I could never be as sociable as he is. Sometimes his social skills drive me nuts, and I have to go somewhere else.

People don’t often hear me when I talk anyway. That’s when I’d rather stick my nose into my journal and remain silent.

I hope this trip won’t make me forget who I am and what I’m here for. I lose focus easily, especially in uncomfortable situations of which there are many right now.

It’s a very wet evening in Sapa. Water is dripping on my bed here at the homestay. I’ve never experienced so much rain. I used to think northern England was bad. At least my bed is comfortable.

I can’t wait till we head down south. If the south is more relaxed, then hopefully, I’ll get to relax too. Being a northerner myself, I’ve grown too accustomed to living in the south. After London, it was Calgary. I have found temporary stability in both places, which is why I love these places.

I forgot to mention that we’re close to southern China.


July 26, 2015

The stink of urine will remind me of Southeast Asia a lot.

The intense moisture in the air is constant. I didn’t think Ha Long Bay would be that wet, and we both brought our laptops and other electronics with us.

I wished we had left them in Hanoi like we did when we headed to Sapa.

On the way to Monkey Island, two other ferries were stuck, with one washed to the shore, making it impossible for our ferry to approach land. The wind was strong; the waves were rocking the boat so heavily I got motion sick. I didn’t throw up, but nausea stirred things up in my stomach.

They organized a mini boat that picked up six to eight people in one go. They made two journeys. We got on the small boat that took us to the shore quite fast, but getting off the boat without getting wet wasn’t possible. L. jumped off the boat first and handed our bag to someone, so it wouldn’t get wet as it had our phones in it. Then he rushed back to catch me as I was jumping off at the shore. There was no pier either on that side of the island.

Our big pieces of luggage remained on the ferry. We were told the boatmen would bring them to the bungalows, but they never did.

Apparently, they were supposed to carry them down to the bungalows, which didn’t make sense. When we arrived, we hiked from the shore to the other side of the island, where the bungalows were. It was a steep and wet hike–sharp rocks everywhere while we were walking up and down. We all made it ok, but the staff couldn’t have possibly carried our bags on that 20-minute hike. We’re worried about our belongings, mainly the electronics that could get wet. My MacBook and medical stuff were in my big bag. L. had his laptop, tablet and chargers in his.

Fun times.

Later they told us the bags were still on the ferry, and they wouldn’t be bringing them anymore. They’d put plastic covers over our bags (apparently). When we disembarked, we saw how the boatsmen were transferring a group of Asian tourists onto the boat that brought us to Monkey Island. They told us that the boat took them back to Cat Ba Island along with our bags.

I used hand cream on my face after a shower, and we both had no new underwear.


July 27, 2015

I spent two hours and 30 minutes on the empty beach looking for pretty stones, chasing crabs. The salty breeze began to stick on my skin. I left when the waves got stronger. My lips tasted salty and sticky.

Our bungalow was ok. The sheets were terribly damp.

They told us that the harbours were closed and that we had to stay on the island for another night. We all predicted that. The resort even switched off the power during the day to save some electricity and toilet water. Apparently, our bags were still on the ferry at the Cat Ba harbour. But whether they were safe or not, we didn’t know. I’d rather not think about it. Yet, it appears that this holiday was all about worrying about the safety of my electronics.

We should be on the bus back to Hanoi right now. I’m exhausted and not used to the climate. My moaning makes me feel like I should’ve never gone on this trip. My stomach feels sick, too. My nipples are sore. I want to skip my period, but the new pills are in my other bag at the harbour.

The dampness on our clothes and sheets…why do I even bother typing this? The storm is supposed to quiet down this afternoon, but I see no sign of it letting us leave.

I’m more antisocial than yesterday. As usual, I feel sorry for L..

It’s difficult to meditate with the sound of the waves and the wind and the sound of someone cutting his nails in the restaurant next door.

I have to find something to do that’s good for my mind. Right now, the only thing that makes my day is dragon fruits. The resort seems to have lots of those.

I don’t remember the last time I wrote such terrible blog posts. I’m not a travel writer.

A Canadian guy said I was very German because I like structure and things going according to plan. It made me feel better. I thought I was just obsessive-compulsive.

My laptop has valuable photographs from 1986 to now. I don’t have all the copies. I suppose everything is ephemeral. I keep forgetting.

I should go back to the beach or meditate. I mean, I won’t stay here forever, will I?


July 28, 2015

We are running low on water. In fact, they turned off water and electricity this morning to save. L. and Olli are collecting seawater to flush everybody’s toilets. The staff at this resort have been collecting rainwater for flushing as well. I don’t think we have enough buckets.

Last night was scary. We went to bed at nine-ish when it started pissing down. The nasty thunderstorm began at around midnight and got worse at 2 a.m. The lightning was right above us. We saw the brightened sky through the mini cracks of our bungalow. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I’ve heard thunder that sounded like fireworks, but not like war.

I was having nightmares, non-linear, broken fragments.

Bugs were looking for shelter. I brushed a cockroach off my knee and tore off one of his legs by accident. Later in the night, when it appeared again, L. killed it. Then there was a giant march fly inside our mosquito net. It’s probably still somewhere in the room.

Our guide is waiting for news from the tour company. Apparently, Hanoi’s weather is all right; it’s just the islands that have it bad. We sweated terribly and never felt that disgusting.

I still want to skip my period. Taking the last pill today. No one really knows how secure our bags are. The Internet is non-existent. We were going to contact our travel agent about it because the guide knows nothing. All he does is pretend and smile.

Our stomachs are getting upset. A few of us have started to feel a little ill. We ate leftover shrimps last night and probably reheated rice. Having turned off the power at 1 a.m. last night, I doubt the fridges were on. I’m thankful my phone has a flashlight. It gets dark on the island at around 6 p.m. It’s dark inside the bungalow, even during the day.


We had leftover sausages and omelettes from yesterday, so they made us toasties this morning. There were no dragon fruits this time. I suppose the staff members need to eat too and they’re probably saving a lot for us.

I don’t remember a worse holiday than this. Everyone else is trying to laugh about it, playing games in the common room. Everything is filthy here and smells. I’m surprised I’m calm, or perhaps I’m numb. The guide believes that it will be another day before we can leave. The smell of urine is strong. The tables reek of stale beer.

They asked us not to use the water in our room until later this evening.

We’d all like to believe that the waves have calmed down, but it’s still raining.

No one has hope for our luggage. I’ve been grieving the lost photographs, but I put more value on the writing that’s on the computer. I’ve been trying not to think about anything else that’s on my laptop.

Everyone is hungry. We are not expecting much for lunch. I had one green tea yesterday, which was weak, but still tasted like heaven, knowing that I usually drink three to five cups a day.

I’m fed up with Vietnam.



This afternoon was a total farce. There was a huge argument between the staff and the guests regarding leaving the island. I must say the language barriers made communication a lot harder than it should have been. We assumed that we’d be staying another night after breakfast because the weather didn’t improve. Some people from our group got anxious and began contacting their embassies to inform them about the situation. The wifi was limited or unavailable. Luckily some people had Vietnamese sim cards and were able to contact the outside world.

It continued pissing down until around 3 p.m.

I was having a nap in that terrible, damp bungalow until L. came and said, “Apparently, we’re leaving!”

The guide had been in touch with the tour company that requested us to leave the island immediately. The weather forecast was bad and would continue to be bad until the end of the week. The weather situation was fine during the argument, and one of the staff members said that we had to leave right away before dark and before the next storm arrived. More thunderstorms were on their way.

Here, the argument began to escalate. The guests refused to leave due to safety regulations. We learned about the flash flood and landslide warnings in the news. Even the embassies told us not to get on the boats. Everyone was shouting at each other; some even called the police. We learned that the government had closed down Ha Long Bay harbour, and no boats could be out. But our tour guide instructed us to trek back to the other side of the island to get on the boat that was already waiting for us. The lack of safety and law violations worried everyone the most.

ANYWAY, we left. Some staff members were left behind as food and power supplies were only just enough for them. (That was one of the reasons they wanted us off the island.)

The waves on our side of the island were aggressive, and the tide was high, which meant the boats couldn’t approach us there. Luckily our trek back to the other side of the island went smoothly, and no one was injured. A mini boat was already waiting to take us to the bigger boat, about 600 metres away from the shore. Of course, all of us got wet when embarking onto the boat.

In the end, it was all worth it, as we all made it, and it was the same boat that had dropped us off the other day. All our pieces of luggage were OK and dry. We were all so relieved.

When we returned to civilization, we watched the news and learned that people have died in flood further north from where we were.

We’re now in a hotel at Cat Ba Island; uncertain whether we’ll be able to leave from Ha Long Bay tomorrow. First of all, we’ll have to take the bus back to Ha Long city.

I’m honestly done with northern Vietnam. I wasn’t happy that we had to cancel the bus to Hué and the hotel on top of that.

We’ve only been here for 10 days! I suppose too much has happened. Meeting so many people every other day has been tiring. As I said before, I’m not like L. Moreover, I’m just looking to chill out and maybe spend some thoughts on potential stories or blog posts to save my mind.

I want to think yes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *