Saturday, October 27, 2012

Waiter, there's a...


... cricket in my salad. Yes, it's a crap photo: that's what happens when you're juggling low light, long shutter speeds, macro subject and a total inability to cope with the technology because of seven shots of rice wine inside you. This time, apricot liquor, with a powerful chilli afterburn. Two proper journos, one freelance, a videographer, a presenter, a tourism company director and a local director: check it out, it's a volatile mix when you add in the local firewater. I would like some credit here for my dedication in posting this entry with - literally - one eye shut for better focus, and multi back-spacing to cope with the keyboard-skills sabotage that results from just a sniff of alcohol, let alone a 20% share of three bottles of rice wine. Plus beer.

It's a degenerate end to a day that began so well with zen tai chi on the sun deck of the boat at dawn, as the - count them - 14 surrounding boats woke up, weighed anchor and set off for Surprise Grotto. We stood on one leg and stretched and reached and - personally - felt silly and possibly the butt of some Asian in-joke as we tried to follow the master, getting totally thrown at the point when he adjusted one of his tunic buttons.

What's the difference between a cave and a grotto? Apparently, a grotto you can go right through. And the surprise? Well, let's just say there's an accidental link to the name of Vietnamese currency. I'll save you googling it: it's the dong.

After trailing through the huge cave system with its unusual sculpted ceiling, we went back to our boat and were taken, reluctantly, back to the harbour at Halong and driven off again to Hanoi. There we went to a performance of the Water Puppets, which was a harmless and relatively inexpensive novelty, before going out tonight for our farewell dinner in a restaurant that, thankfully, didn't make us sit on the floor, but had cheat seats with a hidden footwell so we could be comfortable as we ate our spring rolls and sweet cucumber salad and crispy chicken (Col. Sanders, hide your face in shame) (and stop trying to look like Uncle Ho), Chinese lamb (shock, horror) and stupid beef noodles and probably something else, but it's all merging now - and the crickets, small and crispy and surprisingly flavoursome. Though the leg-between-the-teeth worry was a new one for me.

Good day, good evening. good company. Even though our World Expeditions local-guide know-how in selecting a genuine Vietnamese restaurant was mitigated somewhat by discovering in the corner of it a person from Albany, which is the next Auckland suburb over from mine. Tch.

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