Welcome to the Jolly Roger.
Celebrating New Years on Halong Bay, Vietnam, with Hanoi Backpackers.
It’s 2011. And that means it is either the year I turn 30 and do the most awesome thing I’ve ever done or that it’s the year I turn 30 and chicken out and be lame.
Those were the first words I wrote here in 2011.
As the year changed from 2011 to 2012 I was standing on the edge of a boat to little fanfare. There was a group of people dancing in the cabin. There was a group of people who climbed to the top of the canopy. I had promised a boy a midnight kiss, but he was no where to be found.
There was no real countdown. No nothing. Just boats lining the water. Silent. Still.
Earlier in the day I had been regretting my decision to go on this three day Halong Bay tour over New Years. Celebrating New Years on Halong Bay would be quiet, maybe 30 people on the boat. There was no real organization and our guide spent most of the night plastered and running around naked. It was cold, not freezing, but just chilly enough that the thought of stripping down to my bikini was far from my mind.
And I’d been in my head the whole day, thinking too much, unable to stop, which really interfered with me connecting with anyone on the boat.
During the course of the day, Edward, a guy I’d met briefly in Nha Trang and had somehow remembered my name weeks later, and I got lost on a kayak. We couldn’t keep up with the group and lost them. It was dark. We were the only kayak in a sea of boats that all looked the same and we couldn’t tell which was ours. It was cold and my arms were tired from rowing. I was scared.
But at the same time, I wasn’t panicking. I knew that everything would work out. That it had to. And, eventually, a woman who sold snacks from a raft lent me her coat and towed us back.
And then demanded money. Of course.
For the moments before midnight I was a bit sad that I wasn’t someplace more lively. Hudled with groups of people. In a place where New Years was actually a thing to celebrate. I was a bit sad that my streak of not kissing anyone at midnight since 2003 would still be in tact.
But in the last few moments, looking out over the water, I realized that I was OK being alone. That I was making huge strides towards being completely independent. That, for the first time in my life, I didn’t hope for change. I just wanted everything to keep going exactly as was.
It was perfect.
Afterwards I joined the others dancing, I found my crazy boy to kiss, I drank a little more…
The next day we headed to an island to spend the day on the beach and drink.
At 1pm I sat on the edge of the beach and celebrated the turning of the New Year in Chicago. Nick, the Brit who I’d met a couple of days earlier at the bar kissed me at my “midnight.”
And then our host got naked and ran around. Again.
I ended up crashing too early from lack of sleep and drinking all day.
The next day we boarded a boat and a bus back to Hanoi, all a little tired, all a little hungover.
p.s. Yanny Depp over here kept asking why I kept taking his photo. Ummm…