The Gringo Trail
Trip Start Nov 05, 2008
27Trip End Jun 23, 2009
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2) Abe Lincoln
Backpacker's Trail: A route chosen by a backpacker to visit all of the mainstream, touristy places in a given country, probably following a guidebook such as Lonely Planet.
I blame my own laziness. Or maybe the convincing tour guide at Hanoi Backpackers.
During the boat ride, we took in the breathtaking views of the bay on a perfectly clear, sunny day.
The rock climbing on Cat Ba Island was definitely a highlight of the tour. We had to drive ourselves to the wall on motorbikes an there was no way I was going to let the hungover Aussie take the wheel. The climbs were not too challenging but they were long and versatile, including one with about 15 different ways to get to the top using the roots of a sideways facing tree as support. The Dutch guy, making his first climb ever, got over his legs shaking halfway up and the German guy, also making his first climb was a natural.
Cat Ba town's nightlife was almost non-existent, so we all caught up on some well-deserved sleep at a really nice hotel and returned to Hanoi the following morning. I wish I had had more time to explore Cat Ba Island as recommended by other travelers, but was content moving on. Many tourists visit Cat Ba but do not usually explore some of the more remote parts of the island. It was also possible to rock climb some of the limestone jutting out from the water, but the tide was not so maybe I'll leave that for another trip...
I left Hanoi on a bus headed for much smaller, but busy Nimh Binh
On this particular packed bus, my seat was directly next to the ticket collector bellowing out of the window the whole time, then I witnessed 2 horribly fatal accidents involving a motorbike, a tour bus and a couple body bags. After a couple hours, I knew we were close to the bus station, but as we got to the first major intersection, a few young kids on the street set up a makeshift roadblock and suddenly started banging on the bus window with sticks and tried to break into the bus. The bus driver must have done something to piss these kids off because they were trying pretty hard to break the windows and climb into the bus. I did my part by closing the window next me and hoped I would make it off the bus in one piece. Eventually, the cops came and broke up the gang of kids and told the bus continue to the station. I still have no idea why the kids were so angry and violent, but that was one bus ride I wouldn't mind forgetting about.
Now a day worth remembering: A few miles from the town center is Nimh Binh's "inland Ha Long Bay" which is loaded with similar spectacular limestone rock formations (karsts) that seem randomly placed all over a sea of green rice paddies. I found a great viewing place after climbing the steps of Bich Dong looking over meandering waterways filled with rowers where I was alone to enjoy the silence and beautiful scenery with no tourists. I brought a lunch and book with me and chilled there for a solid two hours to take advantage of the rare situation. Its days like this that truly makes me appreciate venturing slightly off "The Gringo Trail".
Next Stop: Hue
Where I stayed