Comparing my travel blogs with those written by other people, one of the major things you'll probably notice - apart from mine going on forever while theirs tend to fade into silence after a couple of months, the quitters - is that I don't talk about the people I meet. The reason for this is that I don't choose to meet people very often, preferring my own company and having had enough bad experiences to feel socialising with drunk strangers isn't worth the gamble of making a new friend who I'll immediately alienate by not staying in touch.
I tried to explain this in an earlier post about how extroverted people aren't willing to understand that introverted people's brains work differently to theirs, but comments indicated that these people still aren't willing to try to understand even after I've just explained it to them. So I won't waste more time trying to open your mind and convince you that I'm not some kind of aberration for not feeling comfortable in large groups for extended periods, I'll just comfort you by admitting I had quite a nice time talking to some of the people on my lazy package tour of Ha Long Bay. Some of them.
I know it's not technically free food when the cost of seven meals is incorporated into your tour price, but let's not spoil the magical illusion. FREE FOOD! (Drinks cost extra)
There were 12 people on our boat and I was seated at what became the default couples table (I was there with my invisible girlfriend), which would have been the right choice even if I was still travelling by myself. Maybe it's a sign of age, maturity or just slight ennui with the travelling thing, but I felt I had more to talk about with these multi-racial couples in their 30s and 40s (no immoral old white guys with their suspiciously young brown 'girlfriends,' fortunately) than the backpackin' party people at the other table who were closer to my age.
Maybe travelling has changed me, or it's just time's relentless, grinding wheel doing that automatically in the background. But to illustrate the divergent conversation topics I overhead while tucking into some pre-paid buffet, my table was discussing the differing approaches and attitudes to foreign language teaching in Europe, the Middle East and South America, while half the people on the other table were patiently trying to explain to the other half that islands don't really float on the sea, as it may sometimes appear to a small child or goat, but are actually connected to the land beneath.
These people were in their twenties. Alright, so at 27 I'm still not fully confident about how waterlogged clouds manage to stay in the sky, but these people needed to be told that massive chunks of rock don't bob around on the waves. I was going to be spending another 48 hours in their company, and their complaints about everything from intermittent hot water supplies to slight delays in time schedules were already getting under my skin. It's almost like they have normal lives and haven't spent two years travelling around Asia and dealing with these annoyances on a daily basis like I have, or something. Would we all make it back to Hanoi alive? Stay tuned!
Now for some gratuitous Ha Long Bay beauty shots