"ALRIGHT CASTAWAYSSS, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here!" This is how my time on Castaway Island ended, covered in bruises and sand, but let's backtrack a little...
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City early morning and quickly packed. I say quickly because my bag consisted of bathing suits, my phone, and my passport. Once we were allowed to get off the ship, I made my way to the airport with the usual Laura and Eva, but joined Becca, Kellie, Mary, and Kyra. We flew from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi and let me tell you, Vietnamese people have no sense of personal space. The lady next to Laura put her feet on her leg. I journaled the whole time trying to keep my mind off the fact I thought the plane was going down. But we made it safely to Hanoi and checked into our hostel, The Vietnam Backpacker's Hostel. It was my first time staying in a hostel and I'm kind of liking the vibes. I got two more bowls of pho (typical) and we had a dance party in our room. We woke up at 6 am and, for the next 4 hours, we traveled between boats and buses to the island. The last boat took us past the fishermens village of Ha Long Bay and I could see Castaway in the distance. It was so beautiful I could die. Our "leaders" for the weekend, Alice and Heather, wouldn't let you off the boat onto the island unless you shotgun a beer. College has given us a lot of practice, so I was pumped.
The quietness of the island gave me chills. The bay was full of giant, limestone mountains. We were so far from other people, the island was ours. They rang gongs for meals and the bar was cashless so we paid for our drinks with arcade tickets. My favorite part, however, was the hand grenade challenge -- parents, other adults, stop reading now hahahahahahah (kidding, not really). A hand grenade is a drink where a tequila and jager shot are place ever so carefully inside a cup of redbull so when you take the shot of tequila, the jager falls into the redbull and you chug the jagerbomb. Dangerous. Woody, the manager, decided to make a game out of it between all the different countries the people were from -- America aka Trumpnation, Ireland aka The IRA, Canada aka Snow Mexico, and Aussiland (we had no control over the names, unfortunately). Eva and I had 12. A piece, placing Trumpnation in 1st place and eventually carrying us to victory. We had an absolute blast the first night. The dj came around 9 and played until 2 am. Mary wouldn't know though because she face planted in the sand and fell asleep right there by 8:30. We went rock climbing, tubing in the bay, and danced until our feet bled. Literally. Once it got completely dark, something amazing happened. We ran down the dock and jumped into the bay, lighting up the water with bioluminscent plankton. I couldn't believe my eyes. We were surrounded by the micro-organisms. Eva and I explored the caves on the island before falling fast asleep on the sand for the night.
I was awoken the next morning at 5:30 by the most beautiful sunrise over the mountains. I sat there for two hours with my feet in the water, still in my bathing suit from the day before. All of my friends one by one started to wake up and at 7:30 we heard them ring the gong for breakfast. I ran to the buffet to be greeted by the most beautiful thing -- a pot of pho. I had three bowls for breakfast. My love for pho has turned into an obsession. After breakie, I joined the rest of the people on the island on an iconic junk boat ride around the bay. The sun was shining just the perfect amount, the water was the most wonderful emerald color, everything was just amazing. We kayaked around the bay for a while to get photos, told stories, explored the caves, and relaxed on Rhino Island until it was time to go back that night. This was our last night on Castaway and I could tell that I was already getting upset. I never wanted to leave this place. Like we slept in cabanas overlooking the water. It was beautiful. We met the new group of people that night as they replaced the group who left that morning. We had dinner and the dj played again, but it was the more calm version of the first night. I will dream of going back to this place. I wasn't looking forward to the four hours of travel that lied ahead. The girls working for the company will be there for a few more months until their visas expire and I am so jealous. It was life-changing. The views took my breathe away, the photos won't do them justice.
My last day in Vietnam was my field class for Ecology. Every class that we take has a day-long lab in one of the countries. Mine was a tour of the Can Gio Mangrove Forests. I dressed in my timberlands and gloves and trekked out in the mud for hours. It wasn't as glamorous as my previous few days, but fun nonetheless. I had a bag of seeds and I planted trees along the coastline. It was such a great feeling to know that my actions were supporting an ecosystem that so many people relied on. I wish I could've spent more time there, but our five days in port quickly came to an end.
We now have five days at sea before Shanghai. I'm so excited and like I say about every port, it'll probably be my favorite.