I swam in the South China Sea this afternoon. The water was surprisingly warm and very salty and a dark murky green. Huge jagged limestone rock formations surrounded us then and now, popping up out of the sea like steep mountains, yellow and black limestone and covered at the tops in thick green vegetation resembling kudzu.
Our trip began at 9 am when we were picked up by a chipper Vietnamese guy named “Anthony” in the Lapaci Cruise motor coach. We made several stops at other hotels and ended up with a very international mix – 5 people from Calcutta (two older women, man who proudly told us he was an orthopedic surgeon, and two younger women The youngest of whom didn’t look thrilled to be aboard), a sweet young couple from Taiwan, a very tattooed German couple (the guy has the word nazi tattooed on his calve, which is disconcerting but one of his chest tattoos is of Che Guevara and he was friendly so I am hopeful), a few Vietnamese guys (I think) and a young Czech couple. We are the only native speakers but the tour guide addresses us all in English. (Not uncommon, we have found during our travels).
We drove out of the hectic city into countryside that was both old world and very new – rice fields, water buffalo, Palm trees, bicyclists on dirt lanes and then huge new high rise developments and the occasional modern factory.
We drove on a new tollway, stopping at a modern convenience center with bad toilets and excellent cafe sua – chocolate tasting coffee with condensed milk. (Not as sweet as the ones I’ve had in the USA.) The center was full of other tourists on other cruises. They appeared to be from all over, including Israel. We drove to the edge of the bay, transferred to a an old motor boat that ferried us out to A little cruise boat with 10 passenger cabins. Ours is all shellacked tan wood walls and ceiling, a big foam mattress bed and spectacular views of the bay where we are dropping anchor for the evening.
We did several activities – including the kayaking and swimming, which the young people and we did after being ferried to a dock with little boathouses with kayaks. Dirck and I did pretty well and the kayak allowed us to get very close to the huge hulking rocks and get more stunning views. The food is the weak link on the cruise but after our Hanoi street food yesterday, we are even tougher customers. The weather is hazy, not bright blue sky and sunny but also not raining or overcast. As I type, it has gotten dark and I can barely make out the outlines of the rocks and can see lights for. A few other cruise boats that have also dropped anchor. Not your typical Tuesday, for sure.