After Phong Nha I went to the Cat Ba archipelago to see the famous Ha Long Bay (or rather the neighboring Lan Ha Bay, to be precise). The bay itself was quite spectacular, but the trip turned out very expensive.
I came up with a seemingly cool idea: rent a kayak for two days and paddle in the labyrinth of the bay until I find a beach to camp. And the first part really was pretty neat.
Unfortunately, finding a camp spot was really hard. The vegetation was to weak to support me in my hammock and the rocks had edges too sharp for me to feel comfortable hanging from them. As I was getting more and more desperate in my search I paddled to the outskirts of the bay. And that’s when I realized I didn’t know how to get in or out of my kayak and remain dry when there are waves. So my phone got a soak. Good thing I had my main backpack wrapped in a tarp. Here’s an expensive lesson: when kayaking, assume that everything is going to fall into the water.
After some few more hours of unsuccessful search for a spot to camp, I returned to civilisation and started looking for electronic repair shops. I visited countless, to no avail (I wonder whether there are still any components left in my phone that avoided getting stolen in those places).
But getting a replacement wasn’t my only problem. I also had to contact my family and a close friend. Mostly to save them worries, but also to avoid an expensive search and rescue operation, which my friend was supposed to initiate if I don’t contact her till one day after my expected return.
I didn’t exactly remember her email address, but knew its pattern, so I generated a few possible addresses (including some typos) and sent a message saying I was OK and to confirm to my normal email.
However, with my phone broken, I was about to find myself locked out of my email account, since I use a password manager. As a backup, I had brought with me a Linux Live USB containing my password wallet and software to decrypt it. Unfortunately, I hadn’t expected the computers in Vietnam would be too ancient to boot from USB. Lesson learned: in addition to Live USB, bring also a Live CD. I had a phone number to my family noted down, but not to my friend (another lesson: if there is someone you need or might need to contact, always have a paper backup of their phone number).
Anyway, I created a temporary Gmail account, again generated addresses to my friend and also my family as best as I could recall. I got a confirmation from my family, yay! But my friend remained silent. After a hectic unsuccessful search for an Internet Cafe, I called my embassy emergency number and told the officer to expect a call from my friend, ignore it and inform her I was OK and would contact her soon.
The next day I got a new phone, logged into my account and saw a confirmation from my friend, dating a couple days back. Turns out I had managed to recall her address on my first try, but not on the second one, because it contained a peculiar typo.
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