So there I was, literally in paradise, fabulous boat, amazing cabin, lovely food, cracking wine (we’ll come back to that), the service, the weather, the scenery of Halong Bay and I was the only person on their own and for the first time this holiday I felt really sad about it. Sad, because it seemed such a waste. All the ingredients that make you feel loving and happy were there and it just seemd such a waste I was alone. I was surrounded by couples sipping champagne, gazing amorously into each other’s eyes and no doubt about to go down to their cabins and shag each other’s brains out. And they all felt SORRY for me. I could feel it, taste it. The tang of pity – tastes like an insipid, cheap white wine….
OK before I’m deafened by the sound of the world’s smallest violin, let me reassure you – I am not going to continue in this morbid vein. Some funny stuff on the way and I had changed my mind about being alone, by the end. Ish.
Well, I decided I wasn’t going to sit around at my table for one like some hairy legged (they’re not), overdressed (I’m being modest for pete’s sake!) maiden aunt. I invested in a bottle of red wine. I could have a glass for lunch and the rest later to wash away the taste of pity. This would be OK. I have barely had any alcohol this holiday. Get a bit pissed later and then get off with the captain – plan!
Unfortunately made a bit of a faux pas ordering the wine. Got my 0s mixed up and to my horror (ish) realised I had ordered a $80 bottle of 2000 Margaux. !!!!!!! I say horror, but it tasted marvellous (so it bloody well should have). It was the best wine I have EVER had. It has spoilt me for ever. I savoured every tiny expensive drop. It was nectar of the gods, it was angels tears, it was utterly utterly glorious. And of course every sip accompanied by a frisson of terror and guilt at the price…
Spent the afternoon being rowed around a village, totally on the water. All the people were born, lived and will die away from land. Incredible. Then I went swimming off the boat as the sun set behind the hundreds of strange islands in this unearthly bay, formed (so they say) by dragons thousands of years ago.
There was one especially aggravating couple on this trip. They’re on honeymoon and oh boy, don’t we just all know it. He reckons he’s the man, the joker boy, the chilled out entertainahhh of the cruise, big, brash rugby shirted and incredibly irritating. He kept going up to people to ask them what they were celebrating by being here. As I was on the periphery of a group he couldn’t but help include me in the question, although probably hadn’t meant to. He was only asking so that he could inform everyone for the 30,000th time that he had just got married.
I smiled and raised my (astonishingly pricey) glass of wine. ‘My divorce – here’s to alimony! Enjoy it while you can guys coz this is about as good as it gets. All downhill now. Oh and by the way sweetcheeks’ (I addressed him) ‘if you get a little bit bored later, like married bliss not quite ticking all your boxes – you come and see me – Room 106 – you won’t regret it’ I winked and sashayed off.
No of course I bloody didn’t! I grinned weakly and said ‘Being on holiday of course you total arse’.
No of course I didn’t say ‘you total arse’. Nob was a far more fitting description.
I don’t think I mentioned specifically the elderly man in the ‘poo on the plane’ incident who went absolutely berserk at the poor air steward (who was clearly regretting not taking a sicky that day). To be fair he was in the seat right next to the poo, but he screamed and shouted in a fairly repellent way at the poor guy and I’m afraid I took an instant dislike to him. Anyway – there he was with his wife in the dining room for dinner. It was partly his behaviour on the plane which made me take an instant dislike to him and partly the fact that I thought he looked like an old SS concentration camp guard. (And he was Austrian) but I’ve changed my mind about this now, instead of sadistic, monstrous ‘but so old – is it worth bringing charges now’ war criminal on the run, I decided he was more like Josef Fritzl instead. But without the Stalinesque geniality. He and his wife were at the next table. He kept staring over at me. Probably imagining me in a cellar. And disappearing off every so often. Probably trying to build one.
Anyway, throughout the entire 5 course meal (2 hours), they sat opposite each other AND DID NOT SPEAK ONCE. Nothing – or even smile. Now I know you don’t talk all the time to your spouse and it’s lovely to be able to maintain a comfortable silence – but nothing? And looking so miserable ALL THE TIME? I had quite a nice dinner reading my book and writing libellous stuff about my fellow diners – and drinking a gorgeous (if frighteningly expensive) bottle of wine.
After dinner I went for a facial. Unfortunately it was done incredibly badly. The girl scalded me with a face mask hotter than the centre of the sun and people kept coming in and out. It was not what i expected from such a classy boat. I spoke to the manager about it – just in a ‘giving feedback’ things as the errors were so basic, avoidable and it was not a great experience. She was most concerned and while I was off seeing Halong’s famous ‘Surprise Cave’ (more on this in a minute) she phoned her manager and when I got back – she wiped off my entire bill for the trip! I was her guest!!!!! My mistake with the Margaux (yum) was not such a mistake after all!!!!!!! A free bottle of 80$ wine? Result for me and my bank manager! She was an excellent manager.
Surprise Cave was brilliant too. An immense caverin full of huge, gnarled stalactites and stalacmites – and – do you want to know what the Surprise is? Shall I tell you? It’s a huge rock formation that thrusts out in the middle of the cavern – exactly the same shape – as a thingie! Much hilarity. At the end of the day – it’s objects that are shaped like genitalia that bond us all together in humour across the globe. Esther Rantzen knew it, Baldrick knew it, the Vietnamese know it. It’s a fact.
And that wine? Have I mentioned just HOW good it tasted?!!!!!