OK, so it could get worse. And did.
We set off on a bus for Ha Long Bay at 8am, The Colonel 2 beers in. And still feeling the effects of the previous night. And deciding to continue on.
The scenery on the way out was very interesting. The crumbling French-colonial majesty of Hanoi giving way to the suburbs prior to our journey down the highways to the sea. The thing that annoys me about coach travel is the shots you miss. I think to do a country justice photographically, you'd have to do it by scooter. That way you can stop and shoot as you wish. Maybe next time.
So there we were, on our merry way. I listened to tunes. The Jock read. The Colonel drank. The guide, a Vietnamese named Kenny (yeah right...do you work in a call centre, too?) was a nice enough chap. Looked and sounded a little like Bruce Lee.
We got off the bus after a 4 hour journey. It hadn't been that eventful. Apart from me flipping when The Colonel asked me where the toilets were when we stopped for a break. "I don't know, mate...it's been a while since I visited this shack in the middle of nowhere in Vietnam." Sheesh. So far, so good-ish. Then he piped up with "How long was that journey? Eh...4 hours?? I thought it took 3/4 of an hour. I thought at one point that I was playing pool with you and an old lady was trying to sell me food." The alarm bells started to trill...we were going to be on a boat with him for 24 hours. The Jock later informed me that the Colonel had been slumped in the corner of the bus at one point, attempting to line up a shot with an invisible cue. Oh no. Please...No?
We waited dockside for a break. I could see him looking around for us, two cans of beer in hand, fag in mouth. Bruce Lee came to collect our passports, and went to get The Colonel...who waved him away saying "No, no...I don't want to buy anything. No, no thanks..." I was watching through my fingers.
To cut a (Ha) long story short-ish...he offered me a Magic Sweetie. I didn't want one, so he did the lot. The rest of the trip was cringeworthy to say the least. The topic of conversation, even with a nice middle-aged couple...was non-prescription valium. He asked what other people had ordered, and how much he owed at dinner (it was all-inclusive). We'd all been swimming earlier, jumping off the boat from its highest point into the dark water at night. I begged him not to swim, but he did. After plunging into the water from 20' up, he spluttered to the surface and asked "Did I just jump off there?"
The question we kept getting asked was "Is that guy your friend?" Funny looking back, but not at the time. Karma was Instant, though...as he swam back to the boat he was stung by a jellyfish. I nearly cried laughing. Schadenfreude...I like a bit. Back on the boat, you don't have to guess who volunteered to piss on the stings. Someone said it may have been lice, which are the disintegrated remains of the tentacles when a jellyfish perishes. He asked "Lice? I though they were just the ones you get from sex...pubic lice." The girls he was sat with shot myself and The Jock a dark look from across the boat. We'd chosen other seats to hide from the embarrassment. The rest of the evening was just effing-and-blinding...we had to wait for him to tire and hit the hay. 13 beers that day, and 20 valium in 24 hours finally did him in...and normal service resumed.
All in all, an unforgettable weekend...