Saturday, 8 November 2014

Cat Ba Island

The view from our window in Cat Ba

Gentle start for the day before our first travel day – 11.20 bus, £1 taxi to get there so all well, though we found our way to the actual bus, but they wouldn’t let us on, until suddenly a whole bus load of tourists appeared from a little room somewhere. They obviously knew something we didn’t! Turned round to confirm with the people behind that we were all expecting to go to Cat Ba Island, she confirmed we were before asking whether we’d been on the flight from Taipei to Hanoi, we were and I’d recognised them then as being on the San Fran flight too. 
Our room in Cat Ba. Not bad for £10/night incl. breakfast
Small world, only a quick chat, as they needed to sleep, while we had been ‘acclimatizing’ in Hanoi, they’d had one night there, then overnight train to SaPa, one night there, and overnight train back, arriving back in Hanoi 05.30 before getting this bus at 11.20! I’m so glad we don’t have to do everything at that speed! They are only out of the US for 8 days! Turns out Sarah climbs, and as Cat Ba is one of the few places in Vietnam with established climbing we were all going to be heading to ‘Asia Outdoors’ to see what was on offer.

Cat Ba by night
We checked into our hotel and thought no more about it, till I went downstairs to see if the wifi was any better there (it was), and there they were walking passed, all excited about the kayaking they were doing tomorrow, followed by a night on the ‘rustic’ boat, chilling in the morning and climbing in the afternoon, for $120. She was thrilled to see me as she wanted us to go and book in too! 

The Petrol Station in Cat Ba town. That's a 1.5L pop bottle of fuel
The weather forecast wasn’t that good, and when we went to the company, their description of the ‘rustic’ boat – everyone sleeping out in the open on the deck…..! Don’t think so! Climbing turns out to be quite expensive, so unless the weather improves, we may be giving it a miss, though the tides are right on the 11th for some deep water soloing! Free climb as high as you can before letting go and falling into the sea! At least the only gear we’d need to hire would be shoes! We may be tempted, but it’s all a bit scary, and goes against the whole idea of trying not to fall off!

Hospital Cave entrance. Yes, it's raining heavily!
We awoke to rain so were really pleased we’d made the right decision and could sit around, looking at the sea, writing emails and generally relaxing. Pottered out when it stopped raining for some lunch before retreating back. It’s great, we can either sit in the ‘restaurant’ or our room, looking at the sea, fabulous view, en-suite, breakfast, $16! Add to that that off the main drag you can get 1/2litre of beer for 10000dong (sounds a lot but is actually about 28p) and dinner for 2 for £4 we could be here some time!

Inside the cave. Swimming pool on L, cinema on R!
Second rainy day, but as the previous day hadn’t actually been too bad we thought we’d hire a moped ($4) and head off to the National Park, well our good luck of the last trip, how we never got caught in the rain, has finally broken! It hammered down, so we stopped at Hospital Cave (which we had been going to do on the way back), at least it was indoors, and not a very long, but a very wet walk! Interesting cave system that had had rooms made of concrete and cement, on 3 levels, so providing a hospital for the Viet Cong in the American war. Where we’d parked the bike, there was either a 14p charge, or nothing if you have a drink, we didn’t take much persuading! 
that is heavy rain coming down, but we're under cover (the the moped isn't!)
So that's what they mean by a 'pool table'
Sat down and started talking to a Canadian couple. Good old chat before their guide decided they really ought to move on but not before arranging to meet up in the evening as they’d mentioned some very interesting voluntary work we want some info about. As the place had about cleared, the owner strung some hammocks and we made ourselves right at home, quick lunch of fried rice before deciding to head back to town. Another trip in the direction we’d been walking in before we turned round due to rain the previous day, got a bit further, but turned round again due to wetness!

We can wait for the rain to stop!
You don't see this in the UK!
We had a pleasant evening with Brian and Jane, she is about Brians age and he is 14 years older than her, he has retired and she sort of wants to, but is really enjoying her job! We even managed to catch up with Sarah who had enjoyed her wet days kayaking and climbing. Small world. Still haven’t got any info from them! Oh well, perhaps on our day trip to the National Park….. We headed off in convoy this morning to the National Park, and had a good hike with a guide between us. 

Deer in Cat Ba NP. That's the hill we're going to the top of
Glad we had him as the paths were not signposted at all. Interesting final ascent to the summit where the views were lovely (possibly could have been clearer but then we’d have been walking in the sun!) and the guide announced that not many westerners our age could have managed that, and that he was surprised how quickly we’d done it! Ha, we showed him! 

Our guide in front, Brian (the other one), Jackie and Jane
Apparently the stems of these giant leaved plants can cure typhoid and gout
As we went our separate ways at the gas station, where we’d all sort of crawled on fumes, we decided not to fill up and to risk the journey up to Cannon Fort (they went yesterday). Still no info – perhaps we’ll see them tonight!

On the summit
Two Brians, Jane and Jackie
One of the cannons at Cannon Fort (they're not real soldiers)
Cannon Fort has one of the best views in Vietnam according to the Lonely Planet, and it was beautiful (as well as being very interesting) but in the light drizzle was shall we say ‘atmospheric’!

The 'atmospheric' view from the summit
Oh yes, despite its name cats are not in abundance though there is one resident at our hotel, it is however of the slight ‘psycho’ variety, so you have to time your stroking carefully so as not to get shredded!

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