The route: A VERY slow, shallow, meandering, picturesque boat ride
The chat: The very persuasive landlady, Zoom, at the guest-house dissuaded us from our plans to ride to Ba Be National Park and hire kayaks there (Ba Be means three lakes), suggesting we may instead wish to take an all inclusive boat ride there – passing through a cave en route to the lakes. Coincidentally, her guest-house was the sole booking agency for the trip. We caved in (!) and booked.
The journey was very slow – the river was knee deep and therefore had to be carefully negotiated – but beautiful, and we did indeed pass through a fantastic cave without stepping off the boat. A less impressive waterfall just before a huge lunch provided the turn around point. The boat ride was lengthened when we slammed into a submerged tree, bending the prop shaft. Our driver, clearly not for the first time in his career, dismantled the engine, and repeatedly swung the offending bar against another tree into an approximation of its original form. During the trip, freed from the shackles of pedalling and blogging, we each read a book from cover to cover (or in a world of e-books, from first to last byte). Emma read, ‘Quiet – the Power of Introverts in an Extroverted World’ (rating: 2/10). I read ‘King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa’ (9/10 – not a barrel of laughs).
We were rather unceremoniously dumped back on the road ‘1km’ (i.e. 4km) from the guest-house, which allowed us to walk off the rice wine shots of lunch. Sobriety was short-lived – at dinner we were ‘invited’ (i.e press-ganged) into more rice wine slamers – we eventually escaped after about 7 shots apiece, but I lost count towards the end. A black out caused panic for these two clean-living docs who hadn’t realised how rapidly the blinding effects of methanol could come on, but our nerves settled as our vision miraculously returned to the sounds of the generator kicking in.
*Avid tandemasia readers will note the witty reference to a previous rice paddy photo caption