Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay

For the last few days we’ve been on Cat Ba Island, where we got our first taste of the South China Sea. Getting there was an adventure (especially at the bus station in Hanoi where everyone was trying to convince us to get on their bus – the wrong bus). It was about a 2-3 hour bus ride to Hai Phong, where we got on a boat for about 30 minutes to cross over to Cat Ba Island. From there, it was another half hour drive to Cat Ba Town. Once we arrived we had to grab something to eat before even thinking about finding a place to sleep (we MUST remember to bring snacks on all bus/train rides from now on). Finding a place to stay wasn’t easy, since we arrived on a Friday and didn’t book ahead - we were vacationing with Hanoians, and most of the rooms were full. So we lugged our packs around and eventually found a lovely place called Nam Duong to stay at with a view of the harbour for a decent price (after rejecting another option where we climbed 5 flights of stairs only to find that the sink was off the wall – the place was a dump and they wanted us to pay the same as at Nam Duong). The hotel owners at Nam Duong were very nice – they even gave us a free bottle of water when they saw how tired and sweaty we were (nothing is free thing in Vietnam so that was a nice gesture!).

On our first day on the island we rented a motorbike and explored the beaches, where we swam and sat in the sun for a while. We got to the beach early, before most of the tourists and Vietnamese on holiday arrived, so it was very peaceful. The second day we went on a cruise through Lan Ha Bay (rather than Ha Long Bay, the more popular tourist destination) so we were able to see the landscape with a bit less clutter. We were on a boat with about fifteen other tourists and we got to kayak around the bay and into a lagoon, hop off onto island beaches, go swimming off the boat, and (not my highlight) kayak into a bat cave (disgusting! and much worse compared to the ROM’s bat cave of my childhood – we didn’t stay in there very long). On our last evening in Cat Ba Town we had a great experience with a few local young men, who shared their rice vodka and chicken hot pot with us. They were very hospitable and fun, despite the language barrier – and they even wanted to pay for our meal (we didn’t let them)!

Yesterday we arrived back in Hanoi, where I went on a mini-shopping spree (silk skirt and a tank top… for wearing here of course J) and we stayed the night. Today we take an overnight sleeper bus south to Dong Hoi -  a small and lightly touristed city where not a lot of English is spoken – where we will try to visit the Phong Na Cave (hopefully no bats there!), relax on the beach and check out some of the war remnants.

View of Cat Ba Town

Fish Farm in Ha Long Bay


View from a beach in Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay

1 comment:

  1. Love the photos! Sounds like you're having a great time.