Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 29 April 2013 • Abroad
It’s almost noon and I haven’t done much work at the office. I’d rather look at the pictures of our trip to Halong Bay a couple of days ago. Oh boy, this is one of the worst “holiday blues” I’ve ever had! And the more awesome the trip, usually the harder I move on from it. As opposed to slouching at my desk and not being productive at all, I figure I’ll just tell you guys a bit about the Halong Bay trip.
Halong Bay, at the northern Vietnam, is a destination Mumun and I had been longing for since years ago. We finally had the chance to go with our friends Vindhya and Acul. Though it was a bit over our planned budget, we decided to take the 2N3D Halong Bay cruise and enjoy the famous UNESCO world heritage site a bit more luxurious than we’d usually with other places.
We’ve heard people’s opinions about how comfy travels – like what we had in Halong Bay – pull you away from getting to know more about your surroundings. While there are some rights in it, we actually proved another side to a group cruise. Living on board 2 nights long on Halong Bay gave us a chance to meet interesting people!
Men, that’s his name. He’s the funniest tour guide I’ve met. He would throw jokes that perhaps some only Asians would get, but you could tell he likes to goof around and entertain people. What I like about his tour-guiding is that he would tell his personal stories to illustrate the Vietnamese situations, like the ridiculous prices of cars but he prays his children will have the privilege, and that he lives in a 4-storey house with his parents and grandparent because land is also very expensive there. And he likes to say ‘moreover’ so much.
Moreover, why I liked Men as our tour guide, is because he smiles a lot and giggles to almost all of his own jokes. Whether the joke is funny or not, to me it’s entertaining to see that the joker is entertained by his own jokes 😀
Picture this: an aged woman and man holding hands while walking with smiles on their faces. And then the caption says: “The most romantic story is not Romeo and Juliet who died together, but grandma and grandpa who grew old together.” I saw that from a social media and I cannot agree more. It’s easy to find Indonesian couples who’ve been married for ages. But caucasians? Hm, I’ve probably watched too much E! Channel and seen too many Hollywood movies, where people get divorced as soon as they make the wedding vow. So it was heartwarming to see this Canadian couple on the Halong Bay cruise, who’s been married for 38 years to each other and travel the world together at least twice a year. Well, they’re not grandparents just yet, but Paula told me how she cannot wait to get a grandchild from their oldest.
Randy is the quieter one, Paula is a sweet lady and seemed curious about the Asian cultures. We exchanged quite a lot of stories about each others’ culture. They asked us what Indonesians eat for breakfast, how many people are invited to a wedding, etc. They told us many things about Canada too, like the various ethnicity living with their maintained cultures and the freezing cold weather. And their story about the real maple syrup when we were having pancakes for breakfast suddenly put Canada in our dream-destination list. Slurp!
She was on the Halong Bay cruise with her ..maybe boyfriend or husband, I’m not sure, whom we didn’t get a chance to talk much with. I found out she was from St. Petersburg. I noticed that she had the most pale legs in the group, and that made sense when she told us how cold St. Petersburg can get in the winter. And even in the summer their warmest weather is slightly colder than the coldest weather in Jakarta that I’ve ever known!
Natasha strongly disagreed when we asked whether the Russians rarely smile. She disagreed with a nice chuckle proving us wrong. Natasha was very welcome when I asked her recommendations on St. Petersburg, for my parents who were planning a Euro trip. She looked so enthusiastic and advised the not-so-tourisyty places of her hometown, and even gave me her email just in case my parents needed her to guide them around St. Pb. She’s a walking proof that anyone can be the tourism ambassador for their own area/country. Oh I wish I was going there too! Nothing beats a local insights when you’re traveling!
Vikings, Björk, Sigur Ros, weirdly-spelled names, a lot of unheard-of things, and ice in the name. What’s not cool about Iceland?
Anna and Birkir joined the cruise on the 2nd night and we only had the chance to talk to them shortly before check-out time. Anna used to work at a nursery home and soon to be a waitress, while Birkir is a fisherman, and they both are enrolling in university. We listened to them talking in Icelandic and we loved the sound of the language, which to us sound similar to other Scandinavian and Baltic languages. Difficult to copy but sexy to hear. I could say Reykjavik but couldn’t even start to pronounce the volcano that errupted, Eyja..Eyjafja… I give up!
I tried not to ask them something so obvious but I couldn’t help it. So I asked, “Do you know Björk and Sigur Ros?”
And Anna’s response threw us to the edge of our seats, “Oh yes, we listen to their music. And Birkir is actually related to Björk.”
“Well, I’m sort of related, but not really,” Birkir said, casually.
“What does that mean? How are you related to her but not really?” I almost fell off my seat, curious.
“Well, my father’s sister is married to Björk’s father…”
“You’re cousins!” Mumun yelled.
“But my aunt is not her mother…”
“Still, you’re cousins! In Indonesia, the cousin of your cousin of your cousin of your cousin is your cousin. Step cousins, cousins by marriage, are cousins! Oh my god!”
“Oh my god, you’re the closest I got to Björk!” I said almost frantically.
Then we exchanged stories about our countries and cultures, and things were calming down..until..
“So, do you get to see aurora borealis in Iceland?” one of us asked them.
They paused a little, looked at each other and made sure what aurora borealis was, and Anna answered casually, “Oh, yeah, we see it a lot..”
“Like, regularly? Or do you have to make efforts to go see it?” I was hoping not to envy them so much.
“Because we live in the suburb outside of Reykjavik where there’s not so many lights, we see them regularly, especially in the winter.”
Our jaws dropped. That’s it, Iceland is in my destination list!
“How cold is it in the winter?” Mumun asked, as we are not really winter people.
“About -20 degrees,” Birkir said.
Oh, okay, lemme exchange skin with the polar bear.. LOL..!
We didn’t take photos of Anna and Birkir, here’s the video.
There were more people on this Halong Bay cruise, but these were the ones we talked to the most.
I was exceptionally interested in the older couples. You know how people say that traveling helps wisen you up and that age in general matures you up? Put the two together – age and traveling – and I’m all ears to whatever they have to say about life or even about ants marching on the wall.
On a lighter note, wherever I travel it’s always interesting to chat – and I never force it, only when it comes naturally – with other travelers. May it be with European travelers in Sulawesi, with locals in Hanoi, or Pinoy bloggers we met in Kuala Lumpur. These conversations tell me a lot about how others see Indonesia, gives me the chance to explain them things about my country from my point of view, and darn it, always ends up in adding the numbers of my destination list! It never ends…!
And I’m loving it 🙂