14.12.2008 28 °C
You only live twice or so it seems. Once in real life and once in your dreams.
We drift slowly across a serene onyx ocean, past the mist-shrouded rocky islets of Ha Long Bay, and we sink into a dream aboard the luxury junk, The Red Dragon.
Please excuse the lyrical waxing, but there is no other way to describe this magical voyage.
As we navigate a surreal seascape of three-thousand limestone karst islands we are totally isolated from reality and imagine ourselves drifting through an alternate world inhabited solely by us, four other couples, and the eight-member crew.
The warm crystalline waters of the South China Sea feed us royally, then we swim and kayak on its silky surface before it lulls us to sleep.
Our fellow sailors, a united nations of strangers representing countries as diverse as Australia, Argentina and Dubai, together with the Vietnamese crew, meld harmoniously and make us wonder why the real world is so fractious.
This is a movie set, and fans of James Bond will recognise it from the '97 movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies."
However, like all movies - it has an ending, and we must wake from this dream and return to the nightmare traffic of Hanoi. But before we leave we will be chauffered around a floating fishing village in a boat woven from cane - similar to a Welsh coracle - and we will make a 3rd donation on your behalf to the tiny floating school.
In the words of Chief Inspector David Bliss in "Crazy Lady:"
"If this be a dream, wake me never, so that I may not suffer the pain of disilusionment."