We spent the first day of our Halong Bay tour on the Halong Phoenix Cruiser, a beautiful junk with three floors and amazing rooms. The girls and I commented that the rooms on the boat were better than a lot of the places we'd stayed in Thailand. The food and service was great, too. In the afternoon we took a shuttle boat to explore a cave inside one of the big karsts before hopping in kayaks for a paddle around the bay. After a nice dinner (which I probably should have had less of), we hung around the top deck for a bit listening to music. The group was made up of mostly backpackers with a few older couples trying to enjoy a romantic cruise. Still exhausted from traveling, we went to bed as the rest of the lot started boozing. My roommate, a young Irish plumber obnoxiously woke me up in the middle of the night to drunkenly explain his thoughts on women and to quiz me on my musical tastes as he fumbled with his iPod. I shooshed him to sleep and curled up for a few more hours of Z's.
At 7:30 in the morning, we had a quick breakfast and hopped a boat to Cat Ba island. It was there that I had the seafood lunch that I'd soon 'see' again. We spent the afternoon on a beautiful empty beach where everything was lovely and smiles. But as soon as I returned to the hotel, my stomach was rumbling again. I skipped dinner, choosing to remain in the fetal position in the girls' room instead. When they returned, I politely excused myself, returned to my room, and experienced the worst food poisoning reaction I'd ever had in my life. 'Every orifice' some people call it.
We'd wished we had more time on the Cat Ba beaches but it was a nice couple of days in Halong, despite the tummy troubles. In Hanoi, we had at 69 (my dinner was a piece of bread) and drinks at Half Man Half Noodle (my drink was juice) before hopping a night train to Hue. We lucked out and got a four-person sleeper cabin to ourselves. In the morning, Carlien and I surprised Steph with a candy bar 'cake' for her birthday and a treasure hunt that ended in us watching the Sound of Music (which I'd never seen before).
Hue was a nice city, quieter than Hanoi and Saigon with all the charm of Vietnam. I treated the girls to lunch at La Carambole (feeling that my stomach was stronger, I jumped back into the eating game with a plate of noodles) before saying goodbye for perhaps the last time.