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Published: March 18th 2016
Today was one of the highlights of our trip. The topography of this area, with its emerald waters and sculpted outcrops of limestone is simply amazing. I could sit in the deck chair on the boat for days, just watching the ever-changing landscape flow by.
We were in the lobby at the appointed hour and I watched the awakening town slowly come to life in the harbour across the street. A young fellow arrived on a scooter and wandered around the entrance. Shortly after a taxi arrived. They hung around for a good fifteen minutes before the young guy came in and inquired my name. A little problem of mis-communication. I has written in the cruise confirmation to Blue Swimmers the night before that we would be waiting in the lobby.
We boarded the taxi and headed out of town, the guy on the scooter leading the way. Apparently there is another harbour around the headland. The young guy was to be our guide. We got on the boat with the pilot and cook and headed out into the bay, weaving around various outcrops and fish farms.
Catba bay is an ecological preserve, composed of thousands of these karsks.
It is part of the larger area known as Ha Long Bay. This area has fewer tour boats and is much cleaner, being a nature reserve. These steep rocky outcrops have a few trees growing on them where seeds have fallen in cracks in the rock. A very few have small beaches. One or two that we saw had enough of a beach to build a resort.
The fish farms are small individual affairs. A plot of sea is leased from the government for five years. Twenty foot square boxes floating on pontoons support nets full of fish. The number of these boxes range from five to twenty. Along with these boxes is a small, one room house, usually with a satellite dish and a few solar panels and a generator. A small fishing boat floats nearby. There is usually a dog or two that balance their way on the narrow planks between the fish pens.
Sometimes a few farms are connected. I saw no children. Apparently this is more of a bachelor’s occupation. Karaoke is the main form of entertainment. Maritime merchants in open canoes do the rounds daily, bringing pre-ordered supplies, foodstuff, alcohol and household supplies.
These fishermen seldom go to town as larger craft come by to buy their fish.
We cruised around some more and anchored to go for a kayak paddle. Not my gig so Claudette went off with the guide to explore some caves. I was alone on deck to listen to the waves lap against the hull and watch a sea hawk circle the area. An idyllic peace reigned. I tried not to think of our return to Hanoi tomorrow.
This quiet was broken with the arrival of several other cruise boats. They too seemed to be mostly empty of customers. This was the slow season and the day was overcast at about 20 degrees. There was a healthy breeze. One boat was obviously the party boat. It was packed with twenty somethings whooping it up to loud music.
After Claudette returned, we cruised for about half an hour and laid anchor again. Lunch was served. What a feast it was. The cook had been working on this all morning on a small deck at the stern of the boat. All on a charcoal fire in a clay pot and a single frying pan. Dishes appeared one by
one, a five pound fried grouper, complete with head, a stir-fried squid dish, fresh and perfectly cooked, a bowl of sticky rice, crab spring rolls, a ginger chicken dish and some soupy greens. Way too much for us.
We set sail again and came to a passage with a few islands with small beaches. I changed and jumped into the water, setting forth to claim my own private beach. The cook was worried for me, claiming the water was too cold. It was just as warm as any summer day at the beach in PEI.
A few more boats appeared and anchored for some kayaking. When some people saw me in the water, they were quick to change and claim my abandoned beach. We set sail again for another kayaking spot. Since neither of us were interested, we started home at a slow throttle.
I think the crew was happy to finish early. The cook was appreciative of the sample maple syrup I gave him.
We returned to our hotel and took hot showers to get the chill out of our bones. I had chosen a few more restaurants from their reviews on TripAdvisor. We came across Bamboo
Fish Farm Dogs
At least this pup has a playmate. Most operations I saw only had one dog.
Forest first and decided to give it a try. We were greeted by the soiling owner who sat us at the back of the restaurant, away from the chill coming off the harbour and street noise. He returned with small glasses of rice wine and lime, to help us sleep better he said. It certainly warmed us up.
We ordered spring rolls, as usual, garlic vegetables and battered shrimp. I decided to try shrimp again, in spite of the previous experience of overcooked giant shrimp still with head and shell. I figured that if it was battered, it would be cleaned. Not so. The batter made it easier to eat the head but it was too crunchy. I left most of it on the plate. We left, disappointed despite the rave reviews.
To bed and bags packed for our return to Hanoi.
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