Emojis are now a global language and shared culture, understood and used by all of Generation D (Gen D spans all age groups who are deeply digital). Whilst in Vietnam this December, my stories, statuses and posts were written in Emoji language, so it is only consistent to Emojicate when blogging on this 2 week trip.
Our first pit stop, or plit-plunge, was the ancient town of Hoi An. I can only describe Hoi An as an underwater ancient Chinese sweatshop . Every corner, and every river filled road, had a clothing store offer and a yappy Yorkshire terrier like Vietnamese seamstress. Whether it’s a goldfish print three-piece suit or a Bob Marley crochet bikini you are after, you’ve got business in Hoi An. Lonely planet told me of the long winding bike path roads , leading into the historical rice paddy fields and Bahama style beach huts , however we were deterred to explore when the water rose to our ankles and my Birkenstocks broke. This forced me to put on my waterproof crocs and full body raincoats, losing all respect for myself.
On the days that the sun emoji came to town , myself, Tanja and Chipz were lucky enough to explore the Japanese bridges, yellow-stacked townhouses and indulge in weasel poo coffee . It was on this day I got my long awaited Chinese coolie hat, also known as a rice paddy hat or sun hat. From this point on, we did not take them off. Crocs and cooli hat assembled, we boosted to Hanoi.
Once escaping the monsoon of the south we caught a £19 flight up to Hanoi, the Magaluf of the East, where the dancing woman emoji came out to play . We arrived at our hostel in Downtown Hanoi, to what could have been Pacha (Barcelona one not Ibiza one). Josh Guru Project was playing (Infinity), wife beaters were the norm, it was 5pm, there was a free keg , and people were pulling. I saw tongues . In true dancing lady style, we hit the town in the search for Asian karaoke and Tiger Beer.
Myself, Tanja and Chipz, met three Canadians on the town , weirdly, with the exact same religious beliefs as the three of us: Christian, Hindu and Jewish . This led to the international downtown wedding rehearsal of 2016. From the reception, followed several rounds of couples Mafia and the convincing of the Canadians to join us at our next destination. 2 hours later, in a sorry state, the 5 of us headed to the island of Cat Ba. My husband weirdly chose not to come .
Cat Ba island, is not only the largest island in Halong Bay (wildly untouched, with never ending supply of lagoons and laughing gas), its also the gateway to Castaways. People come here as the calm before the storm , before the mayhem of island hopping, to enjoy biking around the National Park , secret beaches and jungle ridden cliffs.
After some persuasion Chipz convinced us to get motorbikes, however, being husband-less , I had to ride solo with the hostel rep. After Tanja ran over her own toes, and then lost my hostel rep and me for a suspicious 3 hours , we decided to call it quits on the bikes. We called it quits to the point of not leaving our hammock hostel beach hut paradise for 4 days .
Woodstock Beach Camp was the name, dangerous cocktail tab billing systems , beanbags on the beach, and Burning Man 2013 house playlists was the game. There was always a man with a guitar who weirdly knew all the chords to the Glee soundtrack, a really hot European girl who you want to be (and get with), with a sprinkling of overly excited Americans who are acting like it is was the first day of college . I enjoyed getting obliterated on Vietnamese rice wine at the sound of the 6pm dinner bong, stumbling all of 200m to the beach bar to dance on the pool table, to then stumble home and fall into my hammock. All so different from a 45 minute 2.3x surcharge Uber to “stumble” into Shoreditch, followed by the horrendous night tube home to “stumble” back to Parsons Green, and “fall” into my overpriced terraced rented home. There’s no hammocks or rice paddy hats in West London .
If you are ever in Cat Ba, make a trip to Woodstock Beach Camp – check if the puppy we named Doobey Do has grown up. He’s a big chiller .
Once finally parting ways from my hammock, and getting into a locals car to drive through the rubble ridden jungle path to the harbour of Cat Ba, I was greeted by a suspicious moon bus . Out came 50 worldwide nutters – no cringe couples , no old men pretending to be 25 , no rasta wannabees, just good quality inhabitation free travellers who were ready to lose their livers/dignity/hygiene/sanity/minds. And we had all committed $180 dollars to do so .
After a 30 minute boat ride (at 11am) where a couple of tattoo ridden, died platinum blonde twits attempted to get a castaways chant going (we tried to start an Ellen Degeneres chant ), we arrived on the “island. ” Castaways Island can only be described as a cliff line cove, with a sprinkling of bamboo beach huts and a risen “clubhouse” at the end – which was in fact, a Mr Worldwide DJ deck set up . We sat down for a lunch of chips and watermelon , whilst everyone slyly checked each other out. The girls made fake giggles, whilst the boys shouted abuse at their mates to seem cool, and the staff who looked like they hadn’t slept in 6 months smoked about 50 cigarettes to pump themselves up. It was at this point, we were told that there were three rules on this island:
- You cannot say the word ten, if you do, you do ten press-ups
- You cannot say the word mine, if you do, you do ten press-ups (in which case you normally say “yep I will do ten”, making it twenty press-ups
- You cannot have sex in the sea and play with the magical lit up plankton, the coral reef will rip up your legs
It is safe to say, it’s as if the rules did not exist. Its almost as if push-ups and bandages were trending.
Once finding out we were bunking in an all male dorm , with a collection of Clapaluf’s finest and an American rodeo squad, we remembered we had been too chilled in Cat Ba , to the point that we had left our passports there in the hammocks. Perhaps we, were the twits.
After a long afternoon of laying on the beach, kayaking around the cove , wakeboarding and rubber dingy rapped floating, we were greeted by 50 new inhabitants, who had already been on the island for a day. As their pirate like ship sailed into the cove, we heard the distant chants of “fresh meat .” It was that point then, which 50 even bigger suspicious moon emojis appeared on the Castaways cove . As the new islanders entered the premises, we headed into our huts to meet our new roommates, and engage in “chasers of liquor” whilst listening to gangsta rap. We offered them vodka and gum, they told us we smelt nice and were pretty , there was peace in the world.
You would think that the 10m x 15 m wooden hut “club” would get boring after 48 hours, but in the depths of winter , I only wanted more. Fuelled with beer , tanned from my day on the boat, surrounded by 97 under 26-year olds, dancing to Eminem Im not Afraid, in my new Asos raffled Bikini on the table – I wasn’t complaining. It was everything I had hoped for, looking out into the distance and seeing young lovers frolic in the dangerous coral reef ridden ocean , whilst others rolled around in the sand , such great memories. I enjoyed playing rounds of never have I ever with my new South African friends that involved “never have I ever had sex in a tree ” at which point, I was the odd one out not drinking. I learnt about new cultures, I saw some new interesting tattoos, and I didn’t get cut up by coral. Castaways
Looking over my Emoji keyboard, Vietnam offered a real mix of Emojis – you couldn’t have got away travelling without the new iOS update. From the flag , to the noodles , to the moons , I am now looking into my , as to where is next on the global agenda .