A Quick Adventure On Cat Ba

Trip Start Jan 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Thang Loi Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Urgh, buses! Had quite enough now as we have had very little sleep but we made the decision to go all the way to Cat Ba Island meaning a 26 hour journey from Hoi An.
Just a mention on some toilets we visited. It made Carl Pilkington's 'An Idiot Abroad' China episode look like luxury. A communal concrete trench in the rain, worst toilet in Vietnam? Probably.
On the surface of things north Vietnam seems very different to the south. Out come the down jackets, boots and anoraks as the weather resembles something like the English Lake District, but the people are different too. Lots of spitting and low personal hygiene, something we need to get used to for China, we suppose.
All the transport links runs super smooth and it isn't long before we leave the smog of the mainland and arrive on Cat Ba Island. After all the pollution it was a relief to see such beautiful landscape on the island. We were all feeling down because we had left the nice weather behind but our surroundings were spectacular. We settle for a $6 room with great bay views and hot water at Thang Loi Hotel and head to the pub to forget the long journey we had just endured. We met some great people of all different nationalities, drinking beer and playing pool until the early hours.

Slo Pony is an adventure tour operator specialising in rock climbing and have single handedly established the foundations of a potentially huge climbing scene in Vietnam. We booked a kayak tour for the next day with them at $23 each, which included lunch on the boat and a full day on the water in Halong Bay. It was a crazy morning as we woke up unsure of how we would feel from the night before. In a rush we scoffed some pancakes as we got into the mini bus to take us to the port. After an hour of cruising through bizarre karsts landscapes and floating villages  (each with their own dogs on floating platforms) we got into the kayaks and set off for some hilarious fun exploring remote lagoons, beaches and rock. We couldn't help but wonder what kind of paradise this place would be like in the summer. Had lunch back on the boat but we decided to call it a day as we needed to run some errands on the mainland. A tiny basket boat attempted to take 10 of us back to the mainland but broke down half way. Standard! After bobbing about for 40 minutes trying to help the locals suck gas through the engine, we started wondering how we would get back. It didn't help that earlier that day we had heard about the terrible accident in Halong Bay where a boat sank killing 12 tourists. We ended up hitching a ride on a fishing boat with some locals back to the mainland and we were relieved to finally have some rest, as we haven't stopped moving over the last few weeks. 
That evening we ate at Bamboo Cafe, highly recommended by the Lonely Planet, but as usual it was totally not that great! So we bought a bottle of whiskey and chilled on our balcony.

An epic day. We had some breakfast before renting motorbikes and climbing gear, and set off for Butterfly Valley, the most popular mainland crag on Cat Ba Island. The roads through the island were very scenic and its 12 km to the valley. We decided to do an easy grade that proofed tough at 25 metres high, it was highly exposed and the highest we had climbed before. Great fun though, after 10 metres of rock you get to some crazy tree roots similar to that at Angkor Wat, which you climb like a monkey for a further 10 metres. It was a challenging lead climb as it had been two months without climbing, but great fun to top rope. At 4+ we felt it was high for the grade. Lee and Michelle had a go, which was hilarious whilst they swung around on the ropes, but they got the hang of it in no time. Moved on from 'Roots Reggae' to a higher grade route. 5b was an appropriate grade, total height 18 metres. Running out of time we had to rush back on our crappy automatics as our lights didn't work and neither did the brakes. It was incredibly scenic and we were satisfied with our time on Cat Ba, as we decided to leave the next morning. 

Ate at another recommended place from the LP, Green Mango. We were all very impressed with the grub, had deserts and went back for breakfast the next morning before our lift off the island.

17/2/11 27 quid
18/2/11 16 quid
19/2/11 27 quid

Kayak Tour 30 quid 
Climbing Gear Rental 18 quid 
Bus/Boat/Bus to Hanoi 11 quid 
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