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Published: November 24th 2008
Just heading out on the boat
So...where did we leave you!? It's been a little while.
Would have been on our way out of Hanoi with Bill and Linh. We hired our very own car to take us about 90 kms to Hai Phong City. We stayed at the ritzy "Hotel du Commerce" which was really not so ritzy. We had to negotiate our way from two twin beds to one rock hard big one. There must be a good reason (sanitary? sleep? cost?) for this type of mattress but we're not yet accustomed.
Was a pretty quiet town (only 1.3 M), a nice break from the tourist trap of Hanoi. People viewed us more as curious than a big wallet. That night we visited Maxims - they have live music everynight. Must have been an open night as we saw a parade of singers, keyboard players and saxophone musicians (playing a bit too flat to be comfortable to the ear).
In the morning, we boarded a bus to who knows where - we just got on assuming they'd take us to the destination written on our ticket - followed by a ferry....to Cat Ba island. This area is a national park and UNESCO
Lots of little limestone islands
There's a hole in that there rock!
site - beatiful (take our word for now...no pictures yet, but we'll add some to this entry later). Very lush, lots of agriculture. In Cat Ba we met up with Mr Tung our tour operator...he was very friendly, explained our journey and led us aboard our junk ship with our crew - Hung (our trusty captain) and Cam (chef and deckhand). Before we knew it we were cruising between islands and boats of all shapes and sizes.
In all we had two nights and three days at sea - we did a lot of kayking (too much for Bill's liking!), eating fresh seafood, visiting floating fishing villages and a little bit of fishing. Most of our off-boat excursions were to navigate through caves / rock tunnels to what we've been calling lagoons - secluded pieces of sea that have been opened up where the sea has carved a "tunnels" in the surrounding rock. Very peaceful - occasionally interrupted by Bill ramming our kayak! All the many islands we passed were very similar - steep walled and lush, plants growing even on the steepest angles. Sadly, we never saw a monkey - but swear we heard them 😊
saw a few fishing villages - tiny homes on rafts. The seas have been so overfished that today those that are caught are only a few inches in length. These are then held in nets and grown to an edible size over the next couple of years. Linh - our most successful fisherman - donated several to one such village. (She really wanted to eat them though.)
We also hiked through an incredible land / dry cave. It was pretty well set up - decorated with lights to guide the way. Hard to describe how big it was - 10 m+ high and took at least 20 minutes to navigate. Very impressive.
The rest of the trip was spent drinking beer, lounging, swimming, and eating a wide variety of jewels from the sea: fresh fish (who bit the poor villager in its last moments), squid with almost every meal, clams, snout nose clams (very unique treat they told us), crab (that bit Jen back even after death!), lots of veggies and bitter melon and lots of fresh fruit. We learned that Vietnam is a culture of dipping - lots of sauces. Cucumber and carrots are meant to be
Catch of the Day
We'll be eating well for a week, thanks to Linh!
dipped in fish sauce (or, as an afternoon snack, with salt and chili). We said yes to everything they offered so we're pretty certain we had an authentic menu - fortunately they never caught the one remaining rat onboard....phiu, dodged that bullet.
Although we landed a couple days ago, Rob and Jen are still rocking...must have been a really good time!
For your next trip to Cat Ba - visit: catbaventures.com
! Maybe check that site a few times as it is often pirated / copied by other not-so-trust-worthy operators. Talk to Mr Tung - he's the real thing (and speaks excellent english). Although, if you're travelling with Linh - she speaks excellent Vietnamese.
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