Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cat Ba Island


It was a bit drizzly when we woke up, and Sarah was very slow to get going, so we missed the early fast ferry and ended up catching a slow one at 12:30.. They loaded it up with lots of passengers and freight... even manhandled a motor bike onto the roof... and one lady had some ducks in a bag

We sat at the front by the door, which was nice coz we could stretch our legs a little.
It was an old boat, but at least we could get up and walk out onto the bow in the fresh air... which was essential when they turned on the TV to a Vietnamese pantomine at full bore. I'm beginning to think that Vietnamese people are all a bit deaf! Admittedly we were closest to the speakers, but we ended up stuffing tissues in our ears when we got sick of standing outside...
On the way we stopped and I bought these sticky rice cakes from a vendor on the jetty. They were very neatly wrapped in banana leaves in these handy little packages. They didn't look very appetising ...
Neither Sarah nor Amie were up for it, but I ate one and gave the other to an American guy across the aisle. They had that smoked banana leaf flavour, and were stuffed with a kind of soya bean curd. Very popular with the locals.

After 3 hours, we finally came into Cat Ba harbour... it's like a little resort town with tall skinny hotels all along the esplanade.

We booked into the Cat Ba Dream Hotel at $10 a night.. check out my view...

We were all hungry, so we headed down to a restaurant on the esplanade and grabbed a bite to eat

Because it is not yet summer, there is a wonderful tranquility about the place. Very little traffic, a few tourists and not a lot of people around... ah the serenity! We changed into our swimmers and headed off over the hill to Cat Co No 1 beach for a late swim (it was already 6pm). The water was chilly, but crystal clear and so inviting

That path around the headland leads to another beach, which I headed for the next morning. After our bracing swim, we walked back to our hotel for a shower and a relax before dinner. We headed for The Green Mango but they were too busy (must have been on reduced staff levels coz there were plenty of tables free... ) So we wandered along the esplanade and picked another restaurant which was pretty disappointing, really. Oh well, it had a great location!
Now those two floating restaurants looked like fun. You could hear the music drifting off the water all the way up in my 6th floor room though.

The next morning I got up and had breakfast - fruit salad, meusli and yoghurt

I found a restaurant maybe we should have tried last night... they had these huge shell-fish in tanks, obviously waiting for the table. They would have been about 25cm across. You can just see their funny legs underneath.

Then I walked back over to the first beach and round the headland to Cat Co No 3. The scenery was fabulous and there wasn't a soul in sight...

So beautiful. I found it difficult that I had no-one to share it with. This little beach is where I was headed. As you can see, there is a resort dominating the beach but that means it is well maintained and there are amenities if you want to pay. I had a swim for a while in the crystal clear water thinking how much my grandchildren would love it. When I got out and was drying off, one of the waiters went down to the water's edge looking at something... so of course, I wandered over to check it out. Turned out to be an enormous jelly fish in the shallows - easy 75cm across, with big fat short tentacles like lots of stumpy legs. I waded out and took a picture of it... but you can't see how huge it was:
He ended up burying it in the sand. The staff were quite unperturbed by it, so I gathered that they aren't that unusual. They just quickly and quietly bury the evidence.  It didn't have those big trailing stinging tentacles anyway...

The walk back around the headland to the hotel was again very scenic, with all the unusual watercraft...

And next time I come I am definately going to try this restaurant...

Even though I dont have to work tonight, I dont want to risk another rush like on Sunday getting back and preparing lessons (or not!), so I came back with Amie on the fast ferry at mid-day. It took less than 2 hours. It was so tough to leave the tranquility and beauty of Cat Ba to return to grubbly old Hai Phong. I'll definitely treat myself to more visits as my roster allows. This little adventure in the lap of luxury cost all of $50 all up.
We were home by 2:30 and I felt really tired. I walked to school though because Kate, one of the Office staff wanted me to draw a couple of pictures for her daughter's school project... unfortunately the project is on dreams for your future and she wanted pictures of a doctor and a teacher and I'm pretty bad at drawing people. Anyway, I did a couple of pencil sketches and Kate was happy.

While I was there I ducked into the little canteen and had a sữa chua nếp cẩm-  sticky rice and yoghurt... this is Bich, the canteen lady. She's an absolute sweetie and speaks no English, but is always delighted when I try to speak Vietnamese

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