Songkran. [Photos pending]

It’s been one year, one month, and 29 days. I’m still in Bangkok and – inconceivably – I’m still not dead.

This time last year I was studying for my CELTA. Man alive, I remember that month of insanity as if it were only a year ago: the late nights, the hysteria, the stress, the constant stream of food, the pool that looked so inviting but that none of us ever had any time to use… and before that – SONGKRAN! Thai New Year, water festival, public holiday and city-wide water fight. The craziness of Chiang Mai, the 3-day long water battles, dance music throbbing in the streets, foam sprayed from stages in the square, buckets of ice water paralysingly cold in the midday heat. Wet and wild it certainly was.

Songkran this year couldn’t have been more different. We finished work on the Thursday and went straight from the school to the station, boarded the train and settled into our seats. The others hated the journey – I adored it. We got the cheapest tickets – 11 hours on hard seats, 4 of us squashed into a space that would be comfortable for 2, slightly awkward for 3 and laughable for any more than that. We drank beer and roared laughter playing Cards Against Humanity. Of the countries represented – England, the US, NZ – I can confirm that us Englanders have by far the best sense of humour, boasting a heady absurdism utterly unappreciated by our companions. The chumps. It got late and the train rattled on through the night. The others attempted fitful sleeping with limited success, but you know me and trains out here. I stayed awake, listening to the tracks, watching inky countryside sweeping past Having Moments and writing bad poetry. The trains out here. They’re special.

We reached Chumpon as the sun rose, and from our coach to the ferry port watched the morning colours wheel across the sky, turn to golden light, caught our first glimpse of the sea – the Gulf of Thailand – dream-blue and calm. By the time we boarded the ferry, the fizzy hysteria of sleep deprivation was setting in and we’d collected our 5th group member, well-rested and smug from his earlier, more luxurious train journey. An extended game of CAH and we arrived.

The first thing we learnt on our PADI Open Water Diver course was that the number one rule of scuba-diving is this: breathe consistently or YOUR LUNGS WILL EXPLODE. I immediately broke out into fear-sweats. Unconsciously holding my breath is a little weird habit of mine. I don’t know why. Sometimes I suppose all this Doing Life Things gets a bit complicated, so I decide to momentarily suspend one of my essential bodily functions in order to focus properly on whatever important thing is happening, such as having just stubbed my toe or dropped a glass or seen a DRAGON in the park (oh, it’s “only” a monitor lizard? Whatever.) You know, the big stuff.

So, after the first HELLISH day – the day of Songkran, in fact – when we were in the pool for 8 consecutive hours doing skills in the searing heat, skin burning and chafing from the BCDs, dehydrated, eyes and nose burning with chlorine from doing mask removals, I had absolutely no fear whatsoever about the normal concerns (running out of air, getting the bends, having an equipment failure, having to make an emergency ascent, panicking underwater, being eaten alive by sharks), I was simply afraid that I’d see a pretty fish, get distracted, forget rule #1 and do an innocent and accidental breath hold, thereby EXPLODING MY LUNGS.

As it happens, I didn’t EXPLODE MY LUNGS. Not on the first day when we did our first two dives in REAL OCEAN and saw a white-eyed Moray eel at The Twins and a lionfish and a porcupine fish and a giant pufferfish at The Junkyard. Not even on the second day when we dived at White Rock and saw prawn gobis and where I took the longest piss EVER in my wetsuit, and when we went back to The Twins and saw a Ribbontail ray and did our emergency ascent skills. I did explode a bit on the 5th dive – our first dive as qualified divers and where we didn’t have to do ANY skills at all – but it was my LPI hose and not my lungs, and it was after we’d surfaced and not on the bottom so there was no reason to worry whatsoever. The 6th dive, however, when we went back to The Junkyard and – being qualified divers now, thank you very much – did a free descent and swam through the tunnels and saw all the usual fishes. Ah, friends. It was a glorious time.

We’d been on the island for 5 or 6 days and people were leaving to get back to Real Life. I moved from our accommodation – we’d stayed with the superb people who ran our course, Crystal Dive – and found a room in a 70s porn den. I liked it because the smell of the plywood walls brought back memories of the old caravan in Gma’s garden that was always filled with fly corpses and that we’d sometimes sleep in if we were lucky enough to be allowed the adventure. My island holiday was blissful. I’d get up early, walk along the beach to the north and get breakfast, then head south through the town, across beaches, through woods and over rocks to get to two small bays that were quiet and had excellent snorkelling and an incredibly relaxed restaurant overlooking the sea.

The first time I saw the sharks, it was with fear and fascination in near-equal amounts. It was immediately obvious that they were only juveniles but, even though they were small, they looked already like killers, gliding lazily through the water, looking all shark-like. Black tipped reef sharks. Those fins. I’ve never been so close to something in the wild that I felt was a threat to my life. And, wow, did I feel it, right the way through and into the marrow. My body tensed. ‘THREAT! THERE IS A THREAT!’ But they didn’t come close, didn’t want to. I popped my head up to look around – was it safe? did people know there were SHARKS here? There were a few people snorkelling in the bay, one or two kids. It was probably safe, right? I mean, there were adults, they knew what they were doing, right? I decided not to run screaming from the water.

The juvenile sharks became almost normal. I was still filled with apprehension every time I saw them – they just look so damn DANGEROUS! – but there was less fear. There was so much other life under the water and it made it easy to forget the sharks. And the sealife changed the deeper you went, and the deeper you went the more you realised that the different kinds of fish lived in different stratas. Yellowtail barracuda near the surface, parrotfish at the bottom. There were shoals of tiny fish, flashing silver in the light, and shoals of different types of coral-eating fish that would descent together on one place, chow down for a while, then move on.

I twice saw the muma shark. Huge. Distant. There was no fascination then, only fear. I would freeze in the water, keep it in-sight until it disappeared. Both times I swam back to shore, slightly shaky from the adrenaline.

And once, thanks to pure and perfect luck, I saw a sea turtle. Like a dream. She was on the bottom, chomping on coral. She didn’t seem to mind me watching from the surface. After a while I dived down to touch her, put my hand on her shell. She looked at me, black eyes glintingWhen she left the bottom, she swam more gracefully than you’d imagine. I thought of a spaceship – an unlikely shape, bulky but gliding effortlessly nonetheless. I swum with her until it got too deep, and I trod water, watched her surface to breathe, her leathery face wrinkled and lipless, and swim away. Magnificent.

The next day I bought an underwater camera, but the photos are terrible and I didn’t see her again anyway. I didn’t really expect to. Once in a lifetime is good enough for me.

But that was a week ago. I’ve worked a week since then. Right now, I’m on my balcony drinking a coffee and enjoying the breeze that occasionally wafts its way through the washing that’s hanging out to dry. This morning I awoke to distant sky rumblings. Though it’s still obnoxiously hot, it’s cooler today than it’s been in a while. Hot season – finally – might be coming to an end. The heat these past weeks has been intolerable. I am ready to be cool again. I am ready for rain.



Fruits of hilarious failures

This entry is from a few weeks ago. Apparently I typed it all up then pressed ‘save’ instead of ‘publish’. GOOD ONE.

It starts like this:

Did I tell you about the time I got chewing gum in my hair? About the time I fell over the ground and landed on my chin? About ALL the times I’ve spent wobbling on one leg in uncomfortable proximity to a moto driver because I can only dismount moto taxis with extreme clumsiness? What about the time I didn’t eat a proper dinner because I’m too awkward?

My experiences of the world – particularly of human interaction – are DRENCHED in awkwardness. Not just that cutesy, oh-isn’t-that-adorable kind of awkwardness. It’s more of an OMIGOD-SOMETHING-COMPLETELY-MINOR-JUST-HAPPENED-AND-NOW-I-WILL-HAVE-TO-CHANGE-MY-IDENTITY-AND-MOVE-TO-AN-UNINHABITED-MOUNTAINOUS-REIGON-SOMEWHERE-IN-ORDER-TO-ESCAPE-MY-SHAME kind of awkwardness. If it takes more than 7 seconds to find my purse at the checkout, I’m hitting an uneasy 3 on the awkwometer. If I’m at the front of a queue, it’s a face–warming 6. SPEAKING WITH WORDS FROM MY FACE (never recommended) usually registers around 7 awks as a general background level of awkwardness, with additional awks for the horrible pauses, misspeaks, musunderstandings and general tripe registering additional awk levels on top. Much of my life is lived on these secret and imaginary upper plains of awkwardness. It’s catastrophizing. It’s ridiculous.

I moved house this weekend (reminder: this is an old post!). Everything resets. Remember all those walk-bys I did when I first started living in BKK? Well, by the time I left Bang Na, I was positively NORMAL in my food ordering. I’d just wander up to a stall and just GET something, as if it was EASY. I said stuff in Thai and they gave me food. Sometimes we extended the conversation: they let me taste it and I told them AROY MAAAAAK! (very delicious). Well, I’m in a new neighbourhood. The food places here are less numerous and different – I don’t know them and I don’t recognise their wares. There is no yam nam. No stewed pork. No chicken-foot soup. I am bereft. The process starts again.

On the day in question, I’d had an annoying afternoon that meant I missed a Cultural Tuesday day trip. I was feeling tired and disheartened. Despite the sticky heat, I fancied a hot meal to warm my cockles (I don’t have a kettle yet, therefore NO TEA), so I went for a food search, my first proper exploration of the area. I employed the age-old technique of the walk-by, of course, for that is my way. One of the stalls I saw had a sign written in Thai and English: sliced grilled beef salad, among other things. Clearly my best bet, I thought. I’ll go there. It was decided.I was committed.

I carried on walking.

I went to the 7-11 to look for an iced tea and some courage. When I came out of the 7-11, I started to wander off towards the BTS for reasons that aren’t exactly clear to me, but managed to remember the plan and turned around. I approached the salad man’s stall. Yes, the sign is in English. Yes, the prices are displayed. This is the one.

I almost walked past for a second time.

My body was turning towards the guy but my legs hadn’t seen the memo and continued marching resolutely forwards. Clearly I hadn’t fully committed to this venture. Memo to Legs, Your cooperation is appreciated. Best, Brain. I probably would’ve carried right on walking had the guy not looked up at me just before I drew level with him. BUSTED! I had to stop after that. He’d spied my interest so walking on at this point would’ve been even MORE awkward, and I did actually want to eat there so what’s the problem? LEGS, WE’RE STOPPING OK?

I stopped. I said hello. In Thai. Awkwardly. The man nodded at me, waiting. I asked for a grilled beef salad. In English. Because it was written on the sign in English and I don’t know how to ask for it in Thai. I only know the words for rice (khao), chicken (gai), spicy papaya salad (som tam), that other salad I like (yam nam), soup (nam sup), pork (moo) and others equally as useless in the situation I’m describing. Ignorant bloody farang.

So anyway. I asked. And – and here’s where it got problematic – the man responded. With WORDS. Uhoh. Not only that, he responded with words in Thai, as if I’m living in THAILAND and that’s the LANGUAGE or something. An immediate 20 awks because I KNOW I should be able to understand what’s going on here, and I’m paralysed at the side of the road, gaping at this poor guy because I don’t speak the language and my brain’s sidled off somewhere and left me to deal with the situation alone. Cheers brain, nice to have you on board.

I mumbled. Looked quizzical. He spoke. I nodded a bit, tried to pick out a word I might know. I think I said ‘yesno’ at one point. Pointed. He tried again. I smiled apologetically. Shrugged. Made vague, meaningless gestures. He came around the front of the stall and jabbed his finger at the item I’d ordered, speaking in what was clearly the most basic Thai he had at his disposal. Still, ignorance reigned. What techniques do normal people have to deal with these situations? NOTHING bad has happened, yet I’m looking around for a hole to jump into. WHY CAN’T I COMMUNICATE WITH THIS MAN? WHY IS IT ALL SO HORRIBLE? Probably a normal person would shrug this off, find some alternative method of communication, or maybe they just wouldn’t care? There was a long moment in which he looked at me in frustrated irritation.

I stood there, umming and aaahing.

Kept standing there.

It was a REALLY long moment. That probably lasted about 3 seconds.

In the end some kid I hadn’t noticed at the other end of the stall (Jesus, I thought, there are WITNESSES) explained: he didn’t have any beef left. Simplez. I smiled, grateful, guilty, waved, apologised profusely – and uselessly – in English, walked away quickly with my cheeks prickling, face down, determined to learn Thai or never step outside my room again.

After that, there didn’t seem to be any other food anywhere in the world. There were other stalls, obvs, though not many, but I felt too awkward to try again. I managed to purchase two oranges and some rambutan from a woman a few stalls up and returned to my room in disgrace. I ate the oranges. The rambutan had beetles on them, but I ate them anyway. Minus the beetles.

There’s always tomorrow, right?

PS/ I did eventually go back and get a spicy beef salad… TWO WEEKS LATER after having walked past the stall at LEAST 4 times every day. It was spicy, beefy, salady and delicious.

Day 52: EVERYTHING BEGINS (tomorrow)

I have arrived at my CELTA accommodation and tomorrow EVERYTHING BEGINS. I’m not even being dramatic except that I am. But, having said that, this might genuinely be my last entry for a while. It’s about to hit the fan and I may not get time to write about the splatter pattern. Upsetting.

At midday today I left the balcony that’s been my home for the past 11 days, and the narrow dorm bed I’ve shared with two 40l bags, and I’m now stretched out on a four-poster bed in an enormous room with pool view, a flat-screen LCD TV, an en-suite shower with three settings, one of which is “rain”, and enough space to swing a songthaew should the mood take me, the opportunity arise, and Herculean strength… etc, etc.

Yes, I am used to sleeping on only a sliver of mattress because my belongings were strewn all over my dorm bed. And yes, we mostly had no toilet paper because we had to buy our own. And yes, it was hotter than the sun. Life was rough at JJ’s. A girl had to be a little tougher to survive, had to be ready to kill if the situation arose. Here things are different. Yes, my room has a desk, a dressing table, a complimentary dressing gown and two large comfortable chairs with a little table for – presumably – Thai afternoon tea. Yes, there are two beds in case sleeping in one becomes too dull. And yes, my towels are changed twice weekly. But I’m not going to let it change me as a person. Deep down, I’m still the rough-and-ready adventurer you all know and loathe. Promise, yo.

Today I met 8 of my CELTA-mates. I happened to meet another at JJ’s a couple of days ago on the Balcony of Dreams, so we came here together. She was a children’s book editor for 12 years in Sydney so naturally I am in awe of her a bit. She’s also seen Robert McKee speak. Twice. If that means nothing to you then you obviously have a heart of stone, or didn’t go to Bretton Hall from 2003 – 2006, or haven’t seen Adaptation, or aren’t that interested in writing. So far my CELTA-mates seem like nice, normal human beings. I can only hope that this is a deceptive facade. We ate dinner together tonight but none of them exhibited any signs. It’s early, though. I can wait.

We got here at 2pm, settled in, had a swim in the pool, and then went on a shopping trip to Big C. “Big C” is a rubbish name for Big C. At the very least it should be called “Fucking Enormous C” or “I’ve Never C-n Anything Like This Before In My Life” (LOLZ I MADE A JOKE!). It’s like a supermarket except not. It’s like a supermarket that sells everything the world has to offer, but that also has a food court with ALL food, and also food stalls with additional food, and also an indoor market selling ALL objects that exist, and also plural actual shops selling further multitudes of objects, just in case ALL the objects that exist weren’t quite enough. We went to get stationary but I got distracted by the snacks isle and came away with mostly crisps and wasabe-covered things, and a pack of panic-bought A4 paper I picked up when – at the last minute – one of the guys reminded me what we’d actually come for. Then I thought I’d lost the room key that I haven’t paid a 1,000 baht deposit for, but turns out it was stuck in the lining of my expensive £2 bag which has huge holes in the bottom.

My Chiang Mai experience had continued to be wonderful, by the way. Some brillzville people left, other brillzville people arrived. I had a prison massage (incredible, relaxing, non-stabby), watched Muay Thai (5-way blind fight = hilarious; professional fight = captivating) and went to the Reggae bar so many times I’d memorised the playlist. Hartley and Callie (<3) came in from Laos so we went dancing, had a kebab, and then this morning they separated after 4 months of travelling together.  Last night we ate ourselves into celebratory/lamentory food comas, a result of getting over-excited by a sushi and shabu-shabu buffet. I ate not brains and a mushroom that was actually a bit of squid. Could happen to anyone. Temperatures in the city continued to be crazy-high; people continued to melt away. Time passed.

Anyway, I’m falling asleep. It’s almost midnight and I have a paper to read and an impromptu yoga class to get up for in the morning. As well as the entire first day of CELTA. Already anxious.

Before I go, I would just like to say the following to my Gma, who is reading this blog post on paper because my dad prints out each entry in Germany and posts them to her in the UK so she doesn’t miss out: HI GMA! I MISS YOU! I HAVE BROKEN MY MOBILE PHONE BUT I WILL SEND YOU A POSTCARD OR LETTER SOON. AND I WILL TRY TO PHONE YOU AT SOME POINT AS WELL. I HOPE YOU’RE OK AND STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE. HUGS AND KISSES AND LOVE xxxxxx


Day 34: The Cat Ba Quintet

Time flies when you’re having fun. When I started writing this I was in Hanoi and still not dead, maimed, injured or mentally scarred and now I’m on Cat Ba island and am all of the above.

I have continued to remain classy. You can tell I’ve remained classy because aan old Vietnamese man walked in on me on the toilet at a local street bar and then later I had to wee in Piss Alley, a stinking dead-end that served as a street toilet for the local bars. Fuckin’ A.

It was the day of Food Tourism. Dinner had included snail, frogs, pig heart and pig liver stir fried with crispy noodles, all washed down with medicinal tree wine. The medicinal tree wine came in a reused plastic water bottle, was the colour of poisoned rivers and tasted and smelt like bad ideas and whisky sweats. Later that night I experienced mu first tropical storm as we sat outside under the awning of a little kerbside bar opposite our hostel fat rain hoofing it down, thunder cracking open the sky and neon-bright lightening bleaching it white. Big Weather. Makes UK storms look like sneezes.

Hanoi is my favourite of all the cities so far. I love it for no single reason I can immediately think of. Maybe because it’s cool here, not so sticky, or maybe because our hostel’s so sociable, or because I got a pair of prescription glasses and sunglasses made up for $30, and a hat for 50p. All that and more, maybe. The streets are smaller and less hectic, winding, more varied. The shopping streets are themed. Here’s metalwork street, every shopfront crammed with pans, hangers, buckets, drums, cans, wire racks and all other metal things. Next is bamboo street for all your bamboo ladder needs. There’s woodwork street, clothes street, party craft street, mannequin street, Things To Sell To Tourists street and Stuff That Goes In The Garage street. The fruit and veg are together, live seafood close by. The markets sell coffee beans, herbs, spices, unrecognisable fruits. It’s weird being surrounded by so much stuff you can’t name.

On Easter Sunday we travelled to Cat Ba Island, discovered that there is no Cat Bar on Cat Ba, and are staying in a guesthouse that has MOUNTAIN in the kitchen – or just a rock wall, depending on which way you look at it. We are a quintet. Hartley, Callie and I have been hanging out since Phong Nha, we met Keegan in our Hanoi dorm room, and the fifth is Tazmanian Tom who I’d met back in Mui Ne – happened to spy him on the street in Hanoi, chased him down, appropriated him.

Cat Ba island is breathtaking, a prehistoric wonderland chock full of enormous jagged karst (limestone) slabs jutting out of the ground, blanketed with jungle. It’s stunning, otherworldly, more Jurassic Park than Jurassic Park. You half expect to look into the distance and see a heard of Stegasaurus lumbering around the rice paddies, or see a pteradactyl swooping overhead.

We rented motorbikes and rode to the other side of the island, eyes full of scenery. Keegan climbed a mini lighthouse and got stuck because he couldn’t jump backwards and I rode my bike into a bollard, but only a bit, and only the wing mirror and only at about .5 of an mph. I was distracted by THE GROUND. I’m a dunce but no harm done.

Yesterday we went out on a junk boat to explore the rock formations and kayak. Stunning. Hard to believe that such scenery really exists. We kayaked through caves, into huge, sheer-walled grottos, saw – just by chance – a Cat Ba langur, and kayak-raced the boys and won, obviously, as if it could end another way. I found some green slime on a rock that tensed and moved when you poked it, jumped off the boat into the sea over and over again and almost kayaked into a dismally large jellyfish sitting around in the water. It was hungry work, all that Fun. When we ate lunch our table was the only one silent, intent on stuffing our faces. We won that race as well, finished about 10 minutes before everyone else and left no scraps behind, cleared up next door’s fish rolls as well. Our guide was surprised but he had admiration in his eyes, I could tell.

At nights we drink beer and eat delicious food, bully Keegan, laugh. On our first night there was a beer/hallucination tent and dancing Chinese dragons on a stage. Last night I ate shrimp, the whole thing, even the brains, even the shells. We lost to the boys at pool, drew some vagina dentatas on people. Standard.

Today is Wednesday. I’m out front of our guesthouse, hungover from Vietnamese whiskey, Tiger beer amd too-little sleep, tapping this out on my phone whilst listening to the harmonious sound of building works a few doors down and looking out through the trees into the bay. Hartley and Callie leave for the mainland in a few hours, Keegan and Tom to follow tomorrow and then me on Friday. Over so soon! Can’t believe it. This has been frikkin’ awesome. Can’t wait for the next adventure.

PS/ If you want to see a photo of me crossing a river with a bike and riding a tandem, you should check out Callie’s blog post, here:

Day 28: Lost my glasses, cut my hair

We went to The Pub With Cold Beer. It was an adventure. We had to cycle there but there were 5 of us and only 4 proper bikes so we ended up taking three plus a tandem, obvs, that mode of transport famously designed for steep hills and rutted dirt tracks through the rice paddies. We were warned that it was quite the tough trek, that we’d need to cross a river, that the roads weren’t really “roads” yet. Tourism’s only just becoming A Thing in Phong Nha, the infrastructure isn’t quite sorted out. Yeah. Whatevs.

Mike gave us directions as a group, which nobody listened to because we got distracted by PUPPIES (infinitely cuter than directions). We had a map, anyway. And the navigational expertise I developed during my years as a sea captain in the British Navy back when I was young. What’s the problem?

We got lost in the rice paddies straight away, of course. It was inevitable. Luckily, my aforementioned navigational skills came into play and I was amazing. We got back on track, arses already killing from the bike seats. The scenery was stunning. People working in the fields, cows and buffalo mooching about by the sides of the roads, kids legging it down to to high-five us as we cycled past, calling out “Hellooooo” as soon as they spied us. At one point we had to cross a river on foot, pushing our bikes through the water and trying not to let the current push us over. It was shallow, just above the knees, but it was STRONG. True-blue adventuring.

When we finally got there, we almost cycled past the place. It wasn’t so much a pub as someone’s house with a huge porch, chickens in the front garden, a stone table and seats outside and a hand-written “The Pub With Cold Beer” sign. The girl didn’t speak any English but the beer was cold, and that was the most important thing at this point – it was after midday and HOT. We ordered some chicken using the international language of The Point and she killed it there and then, indicated we should come back in an hour. We rented an inner-tube and took it down to the river for a swim. Some Vietnamese people stopped on their scooter and took photos of us. By the time we got back I’d lost my glasses in the river, and all the money was missing from my fanny pack but I was too happy to care.

The girl had prepared a full meal for us: rice, Morning Glory fried with salt and garlic, crushed peanut paste and the chicken pasted with a piri-piri-style sauce. It was presented on a huge basket with banana leaves, and we ate cross-legged on cushions on the floor of the porch. It was the best and most delicious meal I’ve eaten so far, the closest we’ll come to eating in a Vietnamese home. Peanuts and rice, people. Get on it.

We got back bone-tired and sunburnt and blissfully happy, full of adventuring and beer and delicious food.

And had to immediately get a taxi to the station for the Overnight Devil Train to Hanoi. We arrived at 5am, got scammed by a taxi to the hostel, slept on sofas in the lounge and used ALL the free internetz. When the others were still asleep I wandered into the city, got some new glasses made up – not as good as my old ones but so cheap I got some prescription sunglasses as well. Maybe now I can tan the little white line in the middle of my forehead from where I’ve been squinting into the sun so much. SHUT UP! IT LOOKS COOL.

The hostel’s great but the people look at you weirdly when you cut your hair in the sink with scissors you bought for 30,000 dong from an old lady in the street. JEEZ GUYS. We’re in a 12-bed dorm, but it’s clean as anything and the people we’re sharing with are ace. We went out last night and one of the girls almost hit on a guy who turned out to be 18. Laughed so much I thought I might be sick.

I heard an excellent conversation yesterday morning in which a girl was asked to name an artist from the 80s. Her response was that she doesn’t know any artists from the 80s cos she wasn’t born then. “I was born in the 90s, I don’t know any music before 2000”. Bestworst thing ever.

Staying tonight and then tomorrow I’ll leave the girls to go to Cat Ba island for ROCK CLIMBING ADVENTURES. Get in.

PS/ I don’t really know what you’re supposed to write about on a travel blog so let me know if there are things I’m not writing about that I should be. Don’t tell me to write about the history of places, though. NO. You can’t make me.