Vietnam Day 6 – Halong Bay/Cat Ba Island

Woke early to the sound of water lapping gently at the side of the boat, and had breakfast.  I’d completely recovered from sunstroke now and felt great.  After the simple bread and butter breakfast we reached Cat-ba island, a small island containing a lovely National Park.  We took a minibus from the pier to our hotel.  I got lucky – my hotel room was right at the top – a private sanctuary with 360 degree views of the surroundings.  The room commanded a stunning view of the bay out in front, and of the seaside town to the right, which reminded me oddly of Blackpool, which probably wasn’t a good thing.

We got on a small boat after lunch to go kayaking, which was tiring, but great fun.  All the Kayaks were for 2 people.  We reached a point where we could swim in a cove surrounded by intimidating but beautiful sheer cliffs.  Me and my kayak partner tied our kayak to a rock and jumped in.  The water was refreshing, and for a moment we were free, masters of out crafts and our destinies, free to explore, moor up, jump in….perhaps we could be here, like this, forever.  If only.  After this we reached a point where we could get under a cliff, but only if we lay back flat while the kayak travelled under.  It was a close call.  A woman with a surgically-enhanced chest may have found the nipples teased by the rocks threatening to drip down into the water.  Beyond the rocks lay a beautiful lagoon, hidden by the cliffs on all four sides.  The sea was a delicious turquoise, warm and inviting.

After returning the kayak and precariously walking the wooden plank to the boat, we reached ‘Monkey Island.’  We couldn’t anchor the boat close to shore, so we had to jump off the top and swim 150m to find land, which just added to the wild robinson crusoe feel of the adventure.  We arrived exhausted, and dragged ourselves onto the white sandy beach.  We caught a glimpse of a family of monkeys, red-faced and stern looking.  They crawled upside-down an old school and onto the roof, chattering to each other and glowering at us menacingly.  One of them was carrying a tiny baby with spiky hair.  They were fascinating to watch.  We wondered what they would do next.   All too soon, it was time to go, so we swam back to the boat.  We went back through some floating villages, families playing in the water or bathing, and saw some breathtaking sights.

That evening, after our staple Vietnamese dinner of which I was now mind-numbingly bored of, we went to a ‘Bir Hoi’  I had suggested.  On the way there I met my Spanish friends, Xavier and his girlfriend Bea.  They had been together 27 years yet had never had a desire to get married.  They felt no need to have their love officially recognised, and hated the idea of an elaborate wedding.  They had a point.  I met an Irish couple who were over 15 months into a 2 year break to travel the world.  Along with all the others from our boat, we got stuck in to some of the cheapest beer in the world (3000 Dong for a glass).  Zhung, who was now so serious and funny and caring and calamity-prone it was endearing, came along too.  Around 12 of us got mildly high from the drinks, and Zhung was the life and soul of the party.  He kept asking us all to stand up, say ‘we are the champions’, and drink 50% of our glass, then all of it.  He soon ran out of steam though, and was begging me to allow him to go home.  We made him down 2 more glasses, then we let him go.  After this we went to a disco, a dark place full of locals, not particularly inviting, but we had safety in numbers.

Peter smuggled in a bottle of vodka, so we drank that and had a good party.We were back in the hotel at midnight, I climbed 7 floors of stairs to get to my room, and went to bed, after an exhausting day and night.

Author: Neil

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