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Published: November 4th 2011
View from The Beach Hut
I got up early to go to the fish market and found this
As I write this blog we’re in Hue, 1/3 of the way down the East coast of Vietnam. It’s the 1st November and we’re waiting to check into a backpacker’s hostel. There was a Halloween party last night and it seems people are reluctant to get up and check out. It has been a fairly busy 10 days so here goes.......!
The 50 minute flight from Laos to Hanoi was fairly painless on the evening of the 20th October, compared with the thought of a 24 hour bus ride over the mountains and a border crossing point that would make the North Pole look busy. ‘Apparently’ the bus drivers have a habit of refusing to cross the border unless you pay them a huge wad of cash, if they haven't robbed you first, then ‘apparently’ the border officials will. (You’ll notice the Backpacker rumour mill is rife throughout our blog. These tend to be alcohol fuelled tales of woe passed on from one boat trip to the next. Everyone has one to tell and we're guilty of passing a few on ourselves. You just can’t help it..... These stories may have happened 10 years ago, if at all!)
I can’t really understand why the Americans found it so hard to get here. We managed to find a mini bus to get us from the airport for $2 each instead of $32 that the tourist information desk was quoting. It turns out that the massive tourist info desk in the arrivals lounge is not genuine and is in fact another elaborate scam with their sole purpose to direct you to one of the taxis who will capitalise on tourism (aka ROB YOU BLIND!). The Bangkok traffic was crazy but this is another level altogether. The mopeds are like swarming bees communicating with little beeps of the horn, all avoiding one another. The cars, vans and trucks use size to dictate who has priority. Trucks don’t stop for anything but some are fairly slow so sometimes overtaking is required. Imagine the A1 with no barrier, 4 lanes of motorway speed traffic, us packed in a minibus that should seat 10 (but has probably 15 onboard). Coming towards us there is one lorry overtaking another AND...... our minibus driver decides to pull out into the oncoming lorries to overtake a van! Therefore a game of chicken has started with 3 abreast
vehicles flashing their lights and blasting horns, we could see the oncoming lights swerving to avoid us. We made it but later on in a repeat manoeuvre we hit another car and scraped down the side of the van. We did not stop and the car seemed to accept this as a fact of life!! Maybe the $32 was for a SAFE journey!
The plan was to get to a nice beach for Nat’s birthday on the 22nd October so the following day we headed for Halong Bay, specifically Cat Ba Island where we had plans to stay in beach huts which we found quite easily. After a much needed day on the beach it was Nat’s big day and I had some work to do to make it special. How difficult could it be to get all the ingredients and equipment for a solo BBQ on the beach..... It turns out VERY DIFFICULT! I had to recruit a Vietnamese girl from a hotel who spoke really good English and she said she would show me where to get the items I needed. She said I had to be up at 06:30 to catch the fish market and meet
her mum for some cheap vegetables and salad. 3 hours later I had everything I needed, 2 massive fish, 2 chicken breasts and all the trimmings, even a fish grill. I paid a guy in our kitchen to sort me out a fire at the end of the beach and let me use his place to prep the food. All went well, the fish was tasty, Nat was happy...thumbs up!
Cat Ba is a small island set between the world heritage site of Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay these places are essentially made up of thousands of tiny limestone outcrops (often likened to Jurassic Park) some with deserted beaches which we went to explore by Kayak. The sun was out in full force for once and we hardly saw anyone else all day, apart from a few fatties who had got the boat over to one of the bigger beaches that had a resort on it. On the way home from Kayaking we decided to have a walk up to the Cannon Fort on top of one of the cliffs back in Cat Ba town. The road was long and very, very steep but to guarantee the sunset
views we decided to run; it was worth the effort as you can see from the photos. The fort was used in the American War to protect the harbour from invasion.
Instead of exploring the legendary Halong Bay from Cat Ba we had been told by Captain Charisma back in Laos to book a tour from the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel; the cruise of Halong Bay for 2 days and 1 night aboard the Jolly Roger Junk Boat. The cruise named ‘rock long, rock hard’ was basically a booze cruise full of backpackers. Let’s just say we were ready to come ashore when we did, but others stayed on for another night. We landed back at Hanoi at 5pm on 27th October and were heading straight to Sapa on the overnight train at 10pm.
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