I still kept playing though, in the morning it received more hair dryer treatment over the course of a few hours, and I played around a with it in-between packing up to see if there was any life in the old dog at all. My mind was now set in a tech, experiment mode, devoid from frustration and emotion, but still unable to give up fully on something that was again starting to show slight signs of life.
At first it was whirring, vibrating and clunking, displaying a generic "camera error" screen on the inside, but over the course of those evaporating hours it was showing signs of changes, if not improvements. By the time it came to check out of the room, the vibrating and whirring had stopped, but looking through the viewfinder the camera would only last a short while before the view dumped downwards and the error message was once again displayed. However, occasionally it would stay on long enough for me to get a picture or 2 and I'm well aware that it is just a camera, a mostly inanimate object without it's own heart or soul, but I started to get the impression it was really trying to get there, almost like it didn't want to get left behind. It was like the camera was determined to show that it had been it's journey too. I was willing to give it a chance and placed it into the rubber, waterproof bag that I was taking out for the journey to the bay, leaving the rest of the luggage in the hotel reception after checkout to pick up a few hours down the line.
The bus we caught a little down the road took us directly to the boat station, a different place that we had disembarked the night before and thanks to some calls that Lan had made earlier that day, we were rushed through the ticket buying process before then being escorted through the packed hall and along the quay to wait a short while for our boat to arrive. A longer wait then presented itself as we waited for the boat to accommodate it's allotted fill of passengers and the tour operators moved busily outside sorting what they needed to sort, organising what they needed to organise until it was time for us to set sail without sails. By the time our boat slipped it's moorings and floated lopsidedly, I quipped that our 4 hour boat trip was now down to just over 3. It wasn't all wasted time though, the Korean "lady" on one of the tables opposite using the extra minutes here to fill up her phone with a couple of hundred MB's of seductively styled selfie shots, complete with mid session "check" and push up before he friend finally joined her and helped her get things right.
Out on the open waters our boat moved effortlessly over the flat, calm waters, gliding towards our first port of call. It may have only taken half an hour to reach but this was plenty of time for more selfies to be taken by Korea's finest and for the 2 middle aged Japanese fellows sat on the same table to sink a few cold bottles of beers, each one seemingly better than the last. I was just happy to have a coffee. Instant, black and with sugar, the one available (but not completely diabetic friendly) option, it was still coffee and filled one of my 2 needs at the time. An Insulin injection boost now needing to provide the mean to process it being the other. The camera worked, then failed, then failed before failing again. I packed it back into my bag as the boat came into dock.
We were given an hour to wander through network of caves, the occasional drip on the head causing a brief distraction from the spectrums of colour used to highlight the enclosing attraction, as well as the winding path to lead you through safely. For a brief moment when the power failed the caves were plunged into absolute darkness and you could hear by the sudden silence that everyone had completely stopped, as though playing a giant game of musical statues with the trigger being the absence of light as opposed to music and with motion only resuming again when power was restored. This provided the most excitement that the caves had probably seen for a while, closely followed by trying to guess which Korean "Pose" would be waiting for you around the corner. Somehow, no matter how many times we managed to pass them through the often narrow pathways, they always managed to end up in front of us again.
The second cave we were due to visit was closed for maintenance so we sat in the sun on the harbourside benches, taking in the unique views and waiting for the rest of the time to pass by before departure. With a few minutes to kill I again pulled out the camera from it's waterproof bag, opened the battery and memory card flaps and set it to sit in the sun for a few minutes. This was one of the few chances that I had been able to give it to dry and, no matter how fruitless an endeavour it might have seen, at this point I had nothing else to try. It sat there for 5 minutes in the strong natural heat before it was time to disembark. The sun in these parts is powerful, but maybe I hadn't appreciated just quite how much.
Back on the boat I flicked the camera on. It didn't grumpy or whine, nor did it error or fail. The rear panel was still as dead as ever but the camera had again performed an act of Lazerus like proportions. Tracking was little iffy and autofocus was not as responsive as it should have been, back in body but not in mind maybe, but it was enough for me to do what I wanted, and that was just to capture a little bit of the waters on which we floated, the boats, the life and the scenery around. I resisted the temptation to give it a coffee to help bring it around.
As we sailed the waters over the next few hours, the camera improved, the Japanese drank and the Korean models carried on shooting each other, complete with mid show costume changes, Ha long Bay itself is much as you would expect it to be, with t's still waters edged with limestone rocks and cliffs giving the place it's famed look and feel. One of the criticisms you might hear is that the place is too busy with a crowded feel, but personally this isn't an opinion I shared. Busy I guess is correct, with the tourism industry naturally feeding off the desires of people to see these places of outstanding natural beauty meaning a steady stream of boats ferrying people along the same stretches of water, but crowded it isn't. The islands around may prove to be quieter than the tourist hotspots, and as I had witnessed the day before, were no less stunning. If you want a tourist trip, well you get that here but you want to get to something maybe more quiet and serene, well it's possible to find that here too, or only a very short distance away. It had taken me over 2 years to get here from my last failed attempt, and I stand by the sentiments I felt at that time, It's sometime more about the journey than the destination........
Although.........sometimes the destination helps too..
After we had safely returned to port, we made our was back to the hotel and collected our bags from the lobby for the bus trip to our next destination 50 km's west. A small hotel on a large dusty road that would eventually lead us back to Hanoi, I only woke from my sleep twice on the hour long ride. Once as I nearly fell off the seat as I cusped my bag dozily between my tired shorts dressed thighs poised on the edge of the bench, the other as the driver shouted out that we had reached our destination, with me then hurriedly gathering my bags up and sloping off the bus rather haphazardly on to the side of the highway outside.
As the bus pulled away into the distance and I hoisted my bag again onto my shoulder. It dawned on me that my cap, my trusted servant for over 2 years which I had purchased over 2 years before in Cambodia had now carried on it's trip without me.
I wish it all the best on it's future travels.