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Published: January 17th 2010
Well after resisting all the Touts offers to do a package tour from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island we opted to take the local buses and get there ourselves. Although it wasn't as smooth as a packaged tour might have been, it's more rewarding doing it yourself. That's not to say it's not without it's stress and headaches. We managed to get the bus to Haiphong and then after figuring out where the ferries to Cat Ba were we managed to walk to the docks, this is where following our Lonely Planet has screwed us again (although it has saved us a lot too). We were greeted by a lady on a scooter just as we were about to reach the docks telling us to hurry the boat was leaving. We were mis-informed that there were several boats so we didn't panic and let the boat leave. Well as it turned out there are only two boats the really cheap boat we let go and the really expensive one we ended up taking, after having the friendly lady on the scooter give us grief about not believing her that the boat was leaving and why wouldn't we trust
her that the boat was leaving and blah blah blah. I think the reason might have been that after 9 months on the road anytime someone tries to pressure us into buying anything with hurry up the deals almost over it wreaks of BS or SCAM!
Anyways we ended up on the fast boat and made it Cat Ba all the same. We ended up getting an amazing room with a great view of the Bay for $8 a night so it worked out good in the end. The island of Cat Ba is very beautiful, it is covered in limestone cliffs and dense tropical forests. With a very limited time frame we wanted to do a boat trip to Halong Bay and the surrounding islands. We started pricing day trips at all the local shops and once I found the best deal I offered the manager of our Hotel to match the price so I could give him some more business. Well that went horribly wrong and he ended up getting all pissy with me and telling me he owned the boat and if someone else was selling tickets for that price their tickets wouldn't be valid and
more blah blah blah. So I ended up going down the street saving $6 and then the next day as we board the boat he comes walking down with his guests, at which time I'm expecting him to attempt to throw us off the boat and........nothing happens, because just as I suspected he doesn't own the boat and is really just a clown. Our tour was good, it's very beautiful as you glide in this tiny boat around these massive islands and pinnacles of limetsone. We ended up doing some caving which was good and then we got to kayak for an hour through some caves and inlets which was awesome. We had a French couple on board and the guy was a super rock climber so he managed to get off his kayak and free climb a limestone face about 15m before listening to his girlfriend's pleas of not going any higher and jumping into the water! Our English speaking tour guide was great as she used her 2 English words anytime she needed us to do something "YOU!" & ""HERE!". We ended our tour on Monkey Island which was good since we climbed to the highest point for
some great pics of the surrounding area. The monkeys were cool too. We were pleased with the day tour, I would not recommend anyone do the overnight tours as the boat the people who were doing the overnight tour transferred to was pretty shitty and not what they were shown by the clown who sold them the tour. Remember always bargain hard and expect a little Saigon surprise and you'll be OK.
We wished we could have had more time in Cat Ba to rent bikes and explore the island more but we've committed ourselves to a strict schedule to be able to be in Bali for a month to complete our Dive Master course so we had to keep going. We caught the ferry back to Haiphong and then a bus back to Hanoi to catch a train down the coast to Hue. Jeez, I got tired just writing that, that was a lot of travel for one day & night.
Anyways until the next one
Matt & Tyne
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