Sapa mud + Halong Bay nightmare

IMG_384223rd July

It’s a rather wet day here in Sapa. Though, we’ve been pretty lucky with the weather. I like it when it’s overcast. The air here is much cooler than in Hanoi. Not looking forward to going back there where everyone is on scooters. But luckily, we’ll be leaving for Ha Long Bay on the same day. The 6 days we’ve spent in Vietnam so far feel like 2 weeks. We’ve been out doing stuff a lot.

I certainly don’t miss Hanoi. And I probably won’t miss the local gypsies in Sapa, except for our lovely guide. The gypsies would follow you on your hike and try to sell you their sewing.

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 have grown weak, and I’m losing hair like never before. Bones and muscles will grow weak, too. My body is taking time to adapt to this new 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.

Despite the discomfort, the humidity has been ok to my skin; there are less dryness and irritation. The new tan will make me look less Chinese. Not happy about that. Interestingly, Vietnamese people couldn’t quite work out my ethnicity. They all have larger eyes, too, like most Koreans or Japanese. Some in the north of Vietnam is of Chinese descent, although here in Sapa, they seem to have their own race.

The disorder in my head has been a burden. 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, and I got jealous of pretty girls Lucas was talking to or looking 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.

Again, it’s my body adapting to the fact that I’m not working out or doing (hot) yoga, which are my main tools for stress release and detoxing my body. I don’t know what to do with myself. No meditation either. My head is a mess. I’m missing crucial elements of my normal life, and I’m finding it very hard to adapt. However, I’m not as bad as I thought I would be, but I still feel sorry for Lucas having to put up with me because I’m not a good travel companion. I can be sociable if I want to be, but I could never be as sociable as he. Sometimes his social skills would drive me nuts, and I’d have to go somewhere else.

I’m not often heard when I say something anyway. That’s when I’d rather stick my nose into my journal and remain content that way.

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. It is a good size bed, too. I’ve never experienced so much rain. I used to think northern England was bad.

I can’t wait till we head down south. If the town is more relaxed, then hopefully I’ll get more relaxed, too. Being a northerner myself,

I’ve grown too accustomed to living in the south now. After London, it was Calgary. I have found temporary stability in both places.

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

 

26th July

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

The intense moisture in the air will be on-going, I suppose. 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 badly, and 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 6-8 people in one go. Two journeys were needed. So we got on the small boat that took us to the shore quite fast, but getting off the boat without getting wet was not possible. Lucas 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.

There is still no sign of them.

Apparently, they are 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. The way was very steep and wet – sharp stones everywhere while we were walking up and down. Luckily 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 stuff, mainly about our electronics that could get wet. My MacBook and medical stuff are in my big bag. Lucas has his laptop, tablet and chargers in his.

Now we’ve been told that the bags are still on the ferry and they won’t be transferring them anymore today. They’ve 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. We were told that the boat took them back to Cat Ba Island along with our bags.

I used hand cream on my face after the shower, and we both have no new underwear with us.

 

27th July

I spent 2h30min 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 is ok. The sheets are terribly damp.

We were told that the harbours were closed, and we were staying here another night. We all knew that would happen. The resort even switched off the power during the day to save some electricity and toilet water. Apparently, our bags are still on the ferry at the Cat Ba harbour. But whether they’re safe or not, we don’t know. I’d rather not think about it.

We should be on the bus back to Hanoi right now. I’m exhausted and not used to the climate. My stomach feels a little sick, too. My nipples are sore. I want to skip my period, but the new pills are in my other bag at the harbour.

Gotta live with the dampness on our clothes and sheets. The storm is supposed to quiet down this afternoon, but I see no sign of tranquillity.

I’m more antisocial than yesterday. I almost feel sorry for Lucas.

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 a lot of them.

I also don’t remember the last time I wrote such terrible blogs. 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; I think or meditate. I mean, I won’t stay here forever, will I?

 

28th July

We are running low on water. They turned off the water this morning, so that we could save, the same with electricity. Lucas 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 9 ish when it started pissing down. The nasty thunderstorm began at around midnight and got worse at 2 am. The lightning was right above us. We could even see 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 as well – hardly any linear dreams – just broken fragments.

Bugs were looking for shelter, too.

I brushed a cockroach off my knee and tore off one of his legs by accident. Later in the night, when it appeared again, Lucas 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 either. We were going to contact our travel agent about it because the guide knows nothing. He pretends and smiles all the time.

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

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We had leftover sausages and omelettes from yesterday, so they made us toasties this morning. There were no dragon fruits this time.

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. Surprised I’m calm–guess I’m more numb than calm. The guide believes that it’s only another day like this. The smell of urine is strong. The tables reek of stale beer. It’s quite a dark day.

We were asked not to use the water in our room until later this evening.

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

No one has hopes up on our luggage. I’ve been grieving the lost photographs from yesterday. But I put more value on the writing. 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 3-5 cups a day.

Right now, I’m fed up with Vietnam.

 

20:00

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 did not get better. Some people from our group got anxious and began contacting their embassies to inform them about the situation. 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 pm.

I was having a nap in that terrible, damp bungalow until Lucas 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. There were more thunderstorms to come.

Here, the argument began to escalate. The guests refused to leave due to safety regulations on the water. We learnt 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 learnt that the government had closed down Ha Long Bay harbour, and no boats were allowed to be out in the sea. But our tour guide instructed us to trek back to the other side of the island to get on the boat that was waiting for us. The lack of safety and law violations worried everyone the most. But we left anyway. Some staff members were left behind as food and power supplies were only just enough for them.

The waves on our side of the island were aggressive, and the tide was high, too, 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 600m 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 were back in civilization, we looked at the news and learnt 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 for me, too. As I said before, I am not like Lucas. Moreover, I am just looking to chill out and maybe spend some thoughts on potential stories or blogs to save my mind. I want to think yes.

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