November 04, 2007

xin chào

I'd planned to get a pre paid sim card so I could use the internet on my phone, but nobody seems to know what I'm on about. I know they exist, but the terminology must be different.
It means that instead of being able to update this on the fly, I need to sit in an internet cafe and try writing about a whole week all at once.

So following on from the last post:
We were walking back from the train station after missing our train when a minibus pulled over, a couple of vietnamese (mother and son I think) jumped out and started waving us onto the bus.
We eventually figured out they were going to Halong Bay and there were another couple of tourists (Chris and Jo) on the bus as well so we thought we'd give it a shot.

4 1/2 hours, half a dozen crammed on new passengers, a crying puking baby and an attempt to overcharge us later, we arrived in Halong Bay. The English couple who were on the bus with us were going to Cat Ba island as well, so we bought our boat tickets together and set off.

After visiting some natural caves (thoughtfully lit up for us with coloured lights) we arrived on Cat Ba island. To get to Cat Ba town, it was then just a 20 minute ride in a minivan (16 people in a 12 seater with all of their luggage) which wasn't nerve wracking at all..
Accomodation was easy to organise and we spent the evening dozing after a hell of a long and tiring day.
Before going to sleep though, we managed to take the obligatory millionaire photos:

Cat Co 2 is a beach that is accessible via a rickety boardwalk attached to the rocks around one of the bays. Apart from the parts held together with sticks and wire, it was actually pretty sturdy.

We were the only ones there at 8 in the morning, so after booking a couple of loungers, buying some beers and getting rid of the syringe that was spoiling the view, we sat back and enjoyed a bit of sun.
After a while, a dude came along offering a 40 minute massage for a couple of dollars. After turning him down for a few minutes I caved in and let him do his stuff.
I could get used to having those regularly I think.
Kein was born on Cat Ba and has been trained in Hanoi and China as well as doing a bit of time in Sa Pa as a porter and part time masseuse. Nice bloke and maybe the first genuine person we'd come across in Vietnam (don't worry, he wasn't the last).
That evening we had dinner at a seafood restaurant, so Deb thought she'd be adventurous and ordered the crab "with lemongrass".
Perhaps the lemongrass made it sound fancier than it was, because she ended up with a whole boiled crab sitting on a plate. It hadn't been prepared at all, so after hacking into the thing with nutcrackers, the owner arrived laughing with a pair of scissors and cut the thing in half for us.
I have a feeling that Deb won't be ordering crab next time and will just stick to the dog.
Day 3 in Cat Ba was our last day, so we rented a couple of scooters and took off around the coast of the island. Deb was a little nervous but got the hang of it eventually and we had fun nipping around the roads and tooting our horns like authentic Vietnamese.
We dropped the bikes off after a couple of hours, checked out of the hotel and hopped in a van to take us to the "fast ferry". The ferry was maybe 10-12 metres long, so it was nice and crammed once the dozen motorbikes were rolled on. I ended up sitting right at the front of the boat keeping an eye on our bags that were just sitting on top of the roof.
After the ferry, we were transferred onto the bus to Hanoi with a lot of other locals. Luckily we got on fairly early, so didn't need to sit on plastic stools in the aisle (as was the case for everyone who got on after us).
We made it back to Hanoi without any dramas, checked into our hotel and went out for a couple of cheap beers. By cheap I mean 2000D (which at last count was around $0.13AU).

Tune in next time for: "Name that Smell" and "No motorbike for me, please"

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