Halong Bay – Malaysia – Nepal

Jan 30. – Feb 1.

This night I have a real hard time falling asleep. I do so around 4 am and 2,5 hours later I get the wakeup call from the reception. I ask them to move the boat trip to the next day and turn around again. Getting up around 11 I take the camera and go out – first target: coffee. I get one at the seaside and recognize it is cold and foggy – I feel tiny and cold drops in my skin when I leave the coffee and walk towards the bridge to old Halong. On the way two security guys stop me and invite me for tea – we have a little chat too and they recommend to me to cross the bridge to see the old town. I do so, look around the local fish market and the bay.
The landscape is really breathtaking and the fog is just the right surrounding for it. While I watch two guys fishing – I try to but in this method I am hopeless – a woman offers a two hours boat trip in a small fishing boat for 2,5U$. I paid 35 for 8 hours on a tourist boat. I am hungry and decide to search something to eat, anyway the trip tomorrow has to be fucking amazing anyway I think. Looking back I can only recommend to everyone to go to the fish market and get a trip there.
I get a snack and the guys where I eat offers to bring me back to the bridge which is a few kilometers way – for free! Hospitality and kindness everywhere.
After this very long and exhausting walk I make a short stop at the bakery and then go to the hotel. The room is amazing so I make a shanty evening at the there. Tonight I fall asleep early and sleep very well.
Next day I finally get up early enough to make the booked trip to the famous Halong bay by water. We go out with a pretty nice boat to make the first stop at an insanely illuminated cave. Second cave costs extra admission (5$). Most of us are a little pissed becaused having paid pretty much (a quarter of what I spent in Vietnam myself) already. Second stop we can hire bamboo boats to make a boat trip (6$ – 1 hour) who does not take a boat has to wait on a platform in the ocean with ships around blocking most of the view. Here I really start becoming friends with a Californian guy called Jonas. While we chat the hour passes quickly.
Even though the tour is mostly a scam I am happy I made it and if it was only to meet Jonas here – and of course the scenery is breathtaking too. I wonder how this might look like in sunlight under a blue sky. Coming back to the hotel pretty tired I catch the next Minibus to Hanoi. I got a ticket for tomorrow, to Kathmandu. Even though the last days had been mostly covered with great experiences with great people I am still a little sick of those who only recognize a walking dollar when they see me. On the bus I meet a guy from Barcelona whom I had met on the boat already. We chat all the way and take a dorm together in Hanoi.
Next day in the morning I find myself walking to the bus stop at 4.30am. The bus is fast because of the lack of traffic at this time and when I get out about two km away from the airport 5 Motorbike drivers jump on me shouting “One Dollar, One Dollar, One Dollar!” I shout back at them not to have terrorist money and avoid touching it whenever I can. Unfortunately this is my last memory of Vietnam. At the airport I have to pay 72$ to check in any luggage. Already having paid 220 Euro for the ticket I feel a little reminded at yesterdays boat ride. Fortunately I buy two sandwiches and drink a lot of water before passing the security check. Either of it is incredibly expensive at the airplane. Air Asia is a scam even the space between my seat and the next one is less than 20cm. Looking at their homepage they argue the luggage price of 72$ with the fast rising petrol prices. That rise must have been so fast that no one yet heard of it I think.

As soon as I get out of the plane in Kuala Lumpur everything is just great. Being surrounded by Hindus and Muslims the questions “whereareyoufromwhatsyourname” become common again and I feel at home. I pass the immigration and make this most southern place (N02°45’) I have ever been to the 50th country of which I have officially crossed the border. By the way it has the most beautiful money since the old dutch Gulden I have ever seen too. After walking around in and around the airport, drinking coffee and buying more sandwiches I leave the country again 3,5 hours later – and feel a little sad about it. I like what I have seen – Malaysia seems to be great!
Finally I arrive at Kathmandu airport around 8pm being surprised by helpful, kind and joking immigration officers. Everything takes ages though and when I leave the airport after collecting my luggage its nearly 10pm. Anyway my friend Bijay is waiting for me – we hug each other being very pleased to see each other finally in Nepal. We jump into the next taxi, go to the guesthouse Bijay had already organized, and finally I get real amazing proper food. I love Nepal!