Capitalism knows no bounds — even in the serenely beautiful Halong Bay in communist Vietnam. As our “Party” boat floated through the soaring limestone cliffs jutting out of the silent waters of the bay, a woman rowing a boat — dubbed a “floating 7-11” by our guide — came up to the stern of our boat and offered her wares (chips, snacks, beer, alcohol, toothbrushes etc.) to our rag-tag group of travelers.
Though it was promptly staved off by the crew with the express orders of “No buying alcohol,” we had a fall-back. Our boat was a party boat, stocked chalk-full of beer, cheap rice whiskey and low-grade vodka, the perfect fuel for a memorable night of disturbing drinking games and ill-fated romance.
There’s something about drinking, smoking and general debauchery in the face of nature’s grandeur that makes it just.. better. That girl there on my right, her name was Caroline, and Caroline, well, she was French.
To say she was typically French may be taking it to far, but she was feisty, outspoken, and opinionated, not to mention a cigarette-smoking leather-jacket-wearing badass.
Our group consisted of a healthy smattering of Europeans, as well as a a few Canadian and Americans, but the group discussion tended to stay in or around the relationships between the Europeans throughout the night. In general, no one likes their neighboring country, or the French. I was giddy, the Americans were safely out of the cross-hairs for once.
The night continued until the rice whiskey had erased all the boundaries, and we were simply travelers, reveling in travel, and the warm embrace of new friendships.