Cat Ba

 We were woken at 7am by the boat’s engines starting and had an early breakfast, mainly fruit-based. Today’s plan was kayaking, followed by the 2-dayers going home and the 3-dayers transferring to a smaller vessel.

The kayaking was enjoyable, though I was unlucky enough to be teamed up with the now-hungover pain-in-the-butt from the previous night. As a result, I ended up doing all the paddling, and having to put up with her insisting I stop every 100 yards for her to take photos and swap the camera from our kayak to the other girls’. How my day brightened when the batteries died! Having her almost capsize the kayak so that she could turn round and stick her finger up at one of the other guests on the tour didn’t score any points with me either.

This trip was similar to the sea-canoing I did at Phuket, but more work as I was the one paddling – no staff on the back rowing the tourists around. Mind you, if there’s one thing on this holiday I’venot had enough of, it’s exercise to the shoulder-work was appreciated. As with Thailand, the views were spectacular, but my lower back was grateful when we returned to base and clambered out of the kayak.

At this point we separated, six of us continuing on for the additional day – and fortunately seeing the back of the three girls. My apologies to Becky, who seemed quite nice in all honesty. And Sarah, who until Elle joined in was also really good company. One bad apple and all that.

I ended up being “buddied” with Andy who I’ve mentioned before. He’s from Bristol and staying in the same hostel as me, plodding his way down to Oz to work for a year or so. The other folk doing the extra day were Dale and Kate (Aussies, heading to Canada) and Jennifer and her partner who’s name escapes me I’m afraid! She’s French and he’s a mackem. We all have our crosses to bear. The six of us really hit it off, especially as we all had three things in common, so plenty to bitch about! Jennifer was the woman Elle had maturely raised her finger to, also passing comment on her weight and marginally visible armpit hair. Boy, did we lay into her once she’d gone!

 There were three stops in our afternoon, the first for a barbequeue on a small, secluded beach. Sadly, the weather started to close in and the torrential rain put paid to that. Four of us braved the downpour to get rowed ashore anyway, just to say we’d done it. With a towel wrapped round my shoulders to help keep my t-shirt dry (I’d only packed for 2 days), we were rowed 100 yards there, walked for 100 yards and then rowed back again. Dale and Kate sat on the roof of the boat laughing at us, but we were the adventurous ones!

Lunch was instead served on the boat, and once again was top notch. Annoyingly either the alcohol from the previous night or the motion of the boat wasn’t really agreeing with me so I didn’t eat much. I did fill the loo, though. Not ideal as it didn’t flush. My apologies to whoever followed me in.

Our next mini-trip was to “Monkey Island”, a small bubbly-granite rock with some indigenous macaques. We were given bread by the boat crew to hand to the monkeys. These are definitely more “wild” than the ones I encountered in Kao Thakiap, with only a handful daring to venture near the big, pink hairless apes with the food. I did, however, get some super pictures, including one of a mother and child; the teeny offspring clung to her chest.

 Once out of bread, we took a short walk over the beach to a point where we could climb partway up the hillside. This wasn’t as easy as some islands, where there are steps or a path. This was sharp, volcanic granite or granite-like stone. A fall down here would result in puncture wounds, not bruises. Kate couldn’t make it due to her wearing “thong” flip-flops that would most likely not stay on. The rest of us clambered up, somewhat more clumsily than our less evolved ancestors further down the beach.

Loi told us that the island had been used during the Vietnam War, and surrounding ones had included a radar base and so on. When the US tried to bomb them, the Viet Cong hid in tunnels beneath. The rock above them took an utter pounding from explosives and barely felt it.

A somewhat shaky row back to the boat saw us get even damper as the rain started again. We’d asked for some more kayaking, and despite the weather we stubbornly went for it. In lashing rain and some fairly chill winds, four kayaks set off from a floating platform while people living in the village-on-oil-barrels pointed at the crazy white people and waved at us. Loi wasn’t daft – he had the kit for it. A proper kayaking waterproof. The rest of us got utterly drenched and our time out paddling was pretty much decided by how long it would take the rain to fill the kayaks and make floatation a physical challenge.

Once we were all safely back on board the non-openair vessel, we sailed to Cat Ba. This is quite “resort-ish” and would be our stop for the night. A short coach ride from the port got us to our hotel and we were very pleasantly surprised. Big rooms, huge beds, satellite telly, powerful showers with hot water that I think we all needed!

Dinner was slightly disappointing, as it was predominantly seafood-based and the non-fishy options weren’t very prevalent. What there was, though, was very nice indeed.

After dessert (watermelon, as seems very common here), we were convinced to go into a bar round the corner by a girl insisting it was happy hour on beer. Only it wasn’t. But it was still cheap, the pool table free (also a theme here, it seems) and the atmosphere rather lively. More beer was had. Lots more beer. Pool games were played and lost (mainly lost) and friends made with some Americans who actually understood sarcasm.

Andy and I were the last in our group to retire, heading back at around midnight to empty the mini-bar. Well, given that the entire contents came to a shade over £10.00, it would have been silly not to. Posted by Picasa

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