Welcome to Vietnam.
After spending a day and a half in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam Proper, we took a two-day, 1-night boat ride through Ha Long Bay, home to towering cliffs, turquoise waters, and, luckily for Chloe, caves.
Our cruise-like junk boat took a total of 60 people, and we were to meet in front of our hostel at 8 am sharply. We packed our bags the night before and woke up extra early so as to be perfectly on time and start our voyage right.
The morning of, I grabbed my bag, checked out of the hostel, and popped a malarone (malaria medication).
Upon stepping out of the hostel, we saw our fellow shipmates waiting for the bus to take us to Halong Harbor, and then crossed over to the opposite street corner, where we met up with two of Chloe’s longlost childhood friends.
And that’s when I began to feel it: in a matter of seconds, a pounding headache, a wave of nausea, and an overwhelming sense of vertigo.
The malarone was kicking in.
I took deep breaths and tried to steady myself on the sidewalk, telling myself these minor side effects would be over in a second. But it was too late. I felt like I was going to faint. And I did. Right on the street corner.
I stumbled onto a motorcycle and then fell hard on the ground. I heard Chloe’s friend calling out “Are you serious? Are you serious?” I wanted to answer that yes, actually, I was, in fact, pretty serious, but I couldn’t. He seemed so far away. Everything was black. I was a gonner.
When I came to, I looked up from the street at Chloe, who was sitting calmly on the sidewalk.
“Chloe.” She stared at me, emotionless. “I just passed out.” She stared some more, then plainly stated, “Yeah.”
And, uh, that was it. Thanks for the support, ChloDan.
At 8:50 am, we started to get annoyed. We had been waiting to leave for almost an hour, and our shipmates were still gathered in front of the hostel. We decided to check what was the hold-up. Frankly, telling us to be ready at 8 am and making us wait in the heat was downright rude.
We approached a group of guys going on the trip. “What’s taking so long?” we enquired.
“We’re waiting for a couple of girls who signed up for the trip, but haven’t shown up. Frankly, we think it’s downright rude,” one of them answered, obviously annoyed.
“We might be those girls,” Chloe told him, and his jaw dropped, “No! They’ve been calling your names for almost an hour!” He pointed at Chloe, “Don’t tell me–you’re…Chloe Daniels?” Chloe nodded ashamedly. Then he turned to me, “So you must be…” he hesitated and furrowed his brow in thought. Then, having clearly remembered, he excitedly exclaimed, “OJ Sanchez!”