Journal: Mon 6.17. Ha Long Bay Day 2. Overnight transfer to Phong Nha-Ke Bang.

Digging deep through a low point. More cowbell, less motorbike.

Mediocre visual sunrise still sublime if only for silence, Ha Long Bay.

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Aili rocking our buddy Scott’s touron / hat

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If your guide is this guy in the red hat for Ha Long bay just know he’s a PIA

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Scratching it out in the Hanoi Train Station

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ONBOARD, YES! Exhale. 

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Let’s go real time.  20:18 and we are on the night train to Dong Hoi from Hanoi.  Kids going bananas top berth, Megan not stoked all day, and not now. Just cooked.  I am breathing easy, finally, as always happens I can only decompress when the crew is safe and settled for the night or for a period of time or what not and in some relative state of comfort and safety.  The kids are rocking and rolling, stoked and building forts top bunks.  The tracks parallel Hanoi streets 10 wide w/ motorbikes.  Later to you city.  Megan and the kids are asleep within 15 minutes.  But there is not getting around this being a low point for sure, if not THE low point on the entire trip.

Rewind. The push continues.  If we can just get to the farmstay in national park w/out exploding I think we’ll be good.  But in the meantime there is so much on offer for this day.

We sleep on a boat last night in Halong Bay.  Per prior post, a mix of herded touron idiocy overshadowed by the sheer magic of this place.  Our sleeping room is awesome, really.  A double bed and a single bed.  Megan takes the single and I take the middle of the double, daddy sand style.  I am a coffin sleeper so always draw the whatever straw.  All good.  Going to sleep between my daughters on Father’s Day is actually fairly rad, I don’t care I have 2 feet of space.

Middle of the night, it is nuking rain.  There is a drainage pipe for upper levels of the boat raining down on the deck outside our door.  I just roll w/ it, so loud, but just pouring.  The girls are racked and beautiful.

5am, folks are stirring for a potential sunrise viewing on the bay and the rain has mellowed out but I’m dubious that sunrise will be good.  I get up, I’m awake anyway.  The rain has stopped but the overcast is too much for a cool sunrise.  It’s ok.  Sitting top deck of the boat while Halong Bay lightens is sublime.  I’m in a haze.  At 6:15 I amble back into the boat/tent/room and fall fast asleep, snuggled by 2 amazing daughters, wow.

We’re awoken by our shank tour guide at 6:50 for “breakfast at 7am!!!”.  I love these awakening snuggle times.  And now I’ll grind the guide.  What a shank this dude is, comedy pretty much.  Thankfully we only need him to make sure we are at point a or point b at the right time.  He adds no value, I can see his resentment of tourists.  It’s wild.  Anyway Megan and I end up laughing about what we need to do avoid his stinky — or to provoke him here and there :)

Megan does not have a good day, still not having one, as mentioned.  The push is real on all of us.  The first half of the day on Halong Bay was cool, if not hot.  The highlight, beyond the scenery and boating aspects, had to be the girls engaging 4 backpacking ladies from the University of Glasgow.  Ahhhh, Scotland.  Megan points out that these 20 year old ladies are WAY closer in age to Keira than we are.  Wow.  Anyway, it’s rad.  Scottish connection, but more than that I can see Keira and also Aili engaging these women as travelers.  There is real kinship and I see tears in the women’s eyes more than once.  I have them too, listening to Keira talk about the travels we’ve been on, some experiences good and rough, and on and on.  Her grown up mode is a lot more grown up than when we left.  We are all tearing at the same thing, the beauty of innocence mixed with experience and poignant observation w/ out self-consciousness or baggage. How long can it last and how lasting will be the effects, and what will the effects be we all say good, yes?

The bus ride back to Hanoi is not sweet.  We finally draw the short straw on a tiny bus/shuttle w/ bad suspension and our family is the 4 seats in the back.  We are jacked around for 5 hours.  Tough.  The kids sleep on our laps for 2 hours and Megan and I just tune into suffer land.  And it is a mega hot day.

We get to Hanoi, we get dropped in space but I know where space is and we get to our guesthouse where we’ve stored our bags and they are there but seriously if they weren’t I think we would have been like fine, sweet, let’s fly to Bangkok and hop a plane for SFO!  We are pretty cooked.  I find a resto for the crew for dinner and go do logistics money/food for train/internet transfer confirmations and what not.  Again, if we can just get to the PARK/FARMSTAY to chill out!!!

We’ll get there, but we are grinding for sure.  The kids are actually jamming I should say, all good.  Taxi to train station and gear, check and good.  Muddle through the where we go how we get there.  Bags are feeling ALL TIME heavy, damn.  Just before we head in I race out for ice creams, now is the time for Magnums! (the ice cream, or whatever :)  I find some scaled down versions and the crew is stoked.  I also find some “baby wipe” kinda things.  The final train treat as we are covered in every manner of gnarl.

We muddle into what is really a pretty awesome set up for us.  I’m just stoked I got it right on ticket order.  Four of us in a single cabin w/ 4 “berths” and the kids go up top and its pretty nice.  EXCEPT, insane blaring for real of some rough music/static, intermixed w/ awesome history lessons and Uncle Ho props.  I’ll take the history lessons and Uncle Ho props for sure!!!

At 20:05 pretty much on time the train rolls out, by 9pm we have lights out w/ the crew.  Soon to be for me too, we are all really cooked but I have another gear I know and we will get to the park/farmstay and recharge and what not.  Less motorbike, more cowbell.