Woke up this morning with an agenda. Whatever it is, have to, have to get some of that Vietnamese coffee into my mouth. Yesterday's craving translated to me frantically looking around for the same coffee shop which I found as I strolled around the lake yesterday: The Starbucks of Vietnam. I have just ten minutes to make it back to the A1 hotel before the bus leaves for Halong Bay, and so I hurry up with my coffee that kind of ruins my experience. I scram back and make it just in time to catch the bus: the next phase of my trip. I meet this tour guide named 'Tehn' (pronounced as 'Chen') who tells me that his name can be pronounced in three different chords, and every way you say his name, it has a different meaning. His name meant prosperity. Oh shit, so even my name means the same thing! This guy looks like a Jackie Chan who comes in a small package. Hilarious to the core and I'm not even sure if he's intentionally that funny or is he really serious about everything that makes him all the more comical. He asks me if I'm allergic to anything, and I say "Yes, to Seafood" and his eyes go wide and says "Oh my god! I'm happy I asked because that's all we will be serving on the boat for the next two days! This one time, I forgot to ask, and a Spanish group were also allergic to seafood. Then they got on the boat, and.." Tehn remains silent for a few seconds, looks away with a serious face and says "Terrible.. Just Terrible" leaving me to imagine the rest of the story.
On to the bus, four hours till we reach Halong Bay, and a round of introductions begin. A group of german girls (who's names I don't remember), a young English couple, a Mexican girl name 'Cecilia', a german couple.. Ok, just a lot of nationalities on the bus. I think about making use of Google translator to talk to the german girls, but most of my questions that I could think of seemed inappropriate, such as "Do you know how to swim" and "Are you going to swim in that thing?". Instead, I find this charades game on my phone, and nervously ask the german girls (who seem pretty engrossed with their own conversations) if they want to play the game. "What is this game?" one asks in thick german accent, and I explain. Soon enough we are all laughing at the back, mimicking various animals that the phone throws at us. That got me introduced to Chris and Glenn from Ireland, who seem really sport enough to have a good time on a long drive. These guys are all out fun, and the perfect mix we need to stir things up. Oh, there's our boat, our new mid-sea base for the next thirty odd hours. During the course of the day, we take smaller boats to another island where we hike into a cave that looks just like the Bat cave. After which, upto a hill that has a stairway of a good thousand steps to the top. We climb up and back down. Thighs and Calves are now upgraded to version 2.0!
Conversations feel hard to strike after all the action this day saw. Everyone's understandably tired, and a bit weary about what next. I think of playing some music off my phone, but that still felt wrong somehow. Up until the point in the evening after dinner. Chris and Glenn bring in a crate full of beers and get the party going. Finally! Rounds of beers follow, and that's when I feel it: It's time for Bollywood. My latest victim who falls immediately to the tune of Sallu Bhai's Dhinka Chicka: Cecilia from Mexico. Glenn has his dance moment too, when Chammak Challo plays soon after.
As I think back about that evening even today, the best moment is realizing you are on a boat, in the middle of nowhere, with people you've never met before, laughing over cheap beer and dancing to Bollywood.