On this 3 day trip we traveled with 3 Finnish women, to our detriment. They seemed rather snobby about everything -- nothing was quite good enough. It's hard to not have that rub off on you. Maybe it's just bad luck that most Finnish women that I've ever met seemed snobby; it certainly isn't large enough to be a representative sample.
At every meal they would sit there and speak Finnish to each other, despite speaking english quite well. I'm not an egotistical American that thinks the whole world should speak english, but what these women were doing was effectively making it impossible for Erin and I to speak at all during meals.
We couldn't speak over them since they'd just understand what we were saying. But they'd invariably just start chatting up constantly and Erin and I would just sit there akwardly, eating silently. At our last meal together we just talked about Erin's sisters and computer science: something they couldn't contribute to. Meh.
And now, the ups!
Halong Bay is gorgeous. Countless little cliff-islands covered in lush jungle (when not too steep!) with birds soaring overhead and chinese junks floating along underneath. The first day saw gorgeous, sunny weather. We sat out on the deck, soaked in the breeze, and read books. Fantastic!
In the early afternoon, (after a curious 5-course meal) we went to this gigantic cave. The lighting inside was multicolored and surreal, and a few of the natural cave formations looked awfully like carvings (a turtle, dragon, face, and phallus).
After the cave we boated around a little more and then came to a stop at the place we would anchor for the night. And I went swimming! It was fantastic, especially since the water was perfect, the sun was creeping near the horizon, and we could jump off the top decks of the boat. There were a few times, floating on my back in the water, that I felt I must have found a little slice of heaven (proverbial, of course).