Mountains, caves and kayaks

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October 18th 2011
Published: October 18th 2011
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Andy says:

We have now been on Cat Ba Island for 3 nights after spendng a few days in the mountains in Sapa. It seems that everywhere in Vietnam closes down after about 9pm so it's lucky we've had some nice scenery to look at! It was a long journey to get to Sapa from Hanoi on the overnight train. I'm not sure the rest of our sleeper carriage were impressed at the smell of mine and Dan's feet when we took our shoes off! It was actually a lot more comfortable than we expected if you could handle the UNBEARABLE heat! Got to Sapa 8 hours later and jumped in a minibus who's driver was typically Vietnamese....mental! This journey included a whole new level of danger however in the form of mountain roads and sheer cliff drops. On more than one occasion we thought the end was near! We eventually made to Sapa in one piece after driving through some amazing scenery - the sort of Vietnam you see in the books. Checked in to the hostel and went for a walk around to find that there really wasn't much in the town (we probably should have expected this!) so grabbed some food and went to catch up on some sleep. Later in the day we reverted to our tried and tested method of curing boredom - mopeds! We headed up to the park to get some views from the top of the radio tower which the 'nice' lady at the ticket booth neglected to tell us was shut even though she sold us tickets. That's Vietnam for you. Still, in typical Dandy fashion we had a laugh and spent the afternoon entertaining random Japanese tourists by doing Ace Ventura impressions or hiding and then jumping out on them! Guess you had to be there... We then went for a burn on the bikes down the mountain to watch the sun set over the valley and got chatting to some random Vietnamese dude - who spoke no English - about tattoos. He had what looked to be a prisoner of war or military number on his arm - way cooler than any of ours!

The next day we took the bikes and went for a trek into the 'traditional' mountain village of Cat Cat. As you would expect we stupidly did this at the hottest part of the day and were sweating buckets before we'd even parked the bikes. We started walking in to the village and were met with loads of 'traditional' villagers trying to sell us stuff. I get that they need to make a living and some of the stuff they make is quite decent but you can't tell me you're a traditional tribes person if you have a digital camera and mobile phone! Anyways, once we got through the stalls it was a decent trek and there were various waterfalls and spiders webs to amuse ourselves with. After the trek we went back to Sapa and again with no nightlife whatsoever it was food and then in bed by 9 watching our now favourite channel - the Discovery Channel!

Leaving Sapa we undertook the mammouth journey over to Cat Ba Island. This involved about 18 hours of travel and cars, buses, trains and boats. Needless to say we were knackered when we arrived and our mood wasn't helped by finding out that the only ATM on the island wasn't working and that the bank wouldn't be open until Monday leaving us with two days without any cash (luckily the room was already paid for). At first glance the island wasn't that nice and following the journey we'd been on we were wondering why the hell we had bothered! Luckily we had enough cash for two bags of crisps so we went to get them (Beijing Duck flavour in case you're interested) and decided to head back to the room. On the way back we passed a karaoke place and decided just to check out the list they had to see if there were any classics we could rock once we had some money. Next thing we know a random Vietnamese dude tells us to sit at his table with his two mates (the only people in there just singing karaoke to eachother it seemed!) and presented us with a beer each and told us to sing - was a fair trade as far as I was concerned! We belted out a passable version of 'Jessie's Girl' before I went for a solo effort on 'Foolish Games' and Dan busted out a great version of 'Dirty Diana'. We either put them to shame or ruined their night because they lift pretty soon after but we didn't care - free beer!

The next day we luckily heard about a hotel that exchanged travellers cheques so once we finally had cash again we once again grabbed a moped to get around the island and check out the beaches which were pretty sweet and the water was the perfect temperature! Again this place doesn't have much nightlife but we found a pool table and ended up in a mini tournament with some Scottish dudes before heading back to the room to watch Spurs throw away a win at Newcastle - gutted! Yesterday we spent the whole day on a junk boat in Halong Bay - this is where Cat Ba Island really redeemed itself, Halong Bay is pretty amazing! We had kayaks and spent the day visiting random coves and beaches (one of which unfortunately now has a 'deposit' from me on the white sand after I got an attack of Vietnamese tummy as we got out of the kayak!). We also found loads of caves which were awesome until we decided to go in one where the water was so high we had to lie flat on the kayak to get in. I had visions of never coming out but a kayak with two German girls had followed us in to the entrance of the cave so we had to keep going to not look like wimps! I was quietly shitting myself as the ceiling of the cave got closer and closer to my face and the cave got darker and darker! We pesevered though and made it all the way in before making a hasty retreat in case the tide went up! Dandy's reputation as fearless adventurors remains intact! Last night we went for food with some of the guys off the boat so created a little bit of nightlife ourselves although still in bed by 10.30pm!

Today is my birthday and unfortunately due to some seriously bad planning we are spending the entire day travelling as we head down to Dong Hoi and the largest cave in the world apparently. So instead of getting drunk and celebrating I will be on a sleeper bus which I've heard are the pits so happy birthday me! Dan is still sleeping so will sign out for the both of us - there should be more photos below this text for your viewing pleasure. Laters!

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28th October 2011

Happy Birthday - keep going chaps!
Loving voyeuristically following your trip chaps. Keep it up.

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