This morning we headed down to the bus station to catch a bus to the National Park, only to discover that (apparently) the only public bus left at 8am. This left us with a dilemma… Ride on the back of a motorbike (definite no! Not covered on our travel insurance and I like all my limbs in tact), get a taxi (too much money), miss it completely (but we really wanted to go) OR, find another way… So we did. We bartered with a coach driver, who was heading to Monkey Island (another attraction), for a lift. He agreed to take us for £1 each – dropping us directly outside the park. True traveller status is reaching us.
We paid £1.50 entry to the park and opted for the 2 hour mountain walk. The other walk available, without a paid guide, was a 4 hour walk up to frog lake. But, the girls in our dorm, from Montreal, did that walk yesterday and said it was rather underwhelming. So, we went for the mountain walk instead.
We set off, with no map, (it’s easy, they said, it’s sign posted clearly, they said). Lies. All lies. The receptionist’s idea of clear sign posting is this…
However, with gut instinct in full swing, we set off… Up. Steeply. We were stopped along the way by locals who wanted to take pictures with us. One of the best things about the National Park is that it’s a tourist attraction for the Vietnamese, as well as backpackers… This meant we were on the same level as the locals and they were all really friendly. For the first time, we felt truly equal to the local people.
The walk up was hot, and consisted of panting, photograph stops, a full body work out and bucket loads of sweat… Yep we were positively shining in the stuff!
Very near the top there was a viewing hut providing glorious shade and a breeze. But that wasn’t the finale, the last stretch was particularly rocky and steep but the mountain peak was worth it. Looking over the island and seeing Lan Ha bay was pretty spectacular…
We paced back down, feeling pretty accomplished and with some cracking pictures in tow. At the bottom, we discovered the next bus was not for an hour so we perched under a tree but soon managed to hustle our way onto a tour group’s bus (£1 each again). We chatted to some girls on the group tour and discovered we’d managed to see the same things they had for a very small proportion of the price they paid. Result. Note to self, where you can do stuff independently, do!
After a strenuous morning, and a belly full of food, we took a casual stroll down to the port, and the beaches (there’s 3 different mini beaches on Cat Ba Island). Little did we know what we were about to encounter. Now, I’m not fully clued up on all the laws in Vietnam but I’m pretty sure there must be some (or at least an unwritten moral code) on public indecency… Regardless, we were in no way prepared to encounter a Vietnamese man masturbating in broad daylight on the side of the road. Completely un-phased by our presence, he continued. Sound effects and all. Disturbed doesn’t quite cover it. Permanently traumatised, maybe?
With the trauma behind us, we had a quick paddle in the warm sea and enjoyed the beauty of Cat Ba Island.
We spent the evening by the port, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the holiday destination and sipping on beautiful smoothies.
The Island of Cat Ba is glorious, it’s home to some incredible scenery and natural beauty. It is a shame it’s been taken over by tourism. The port resembles a beach strip you’d find in Majorca, the only difference is many of the tourists here are Vietnamese. That said, I’d recommend Cat Ba to anyone; the walks and the scenery have been highlights of our trip so far and we did enjoy a game of pool, and £1 beer, in a very western bar, with our Canadian dorm friends.
Cat Ba you’ve been amazing.
Katrina and Liv