Cat Ba Island, Lan Ha Bay and Halong Bay


I decided to bite the bullet and hire an automatic moped to drive around Cat Ba Island. It was actually a lot easier to drive than I thought and a bargain at £2.80 for the day plus £1.50 for a full tank of fuel. We visited the Hospital Cave first, which was used for exactly what the name says. It probably would have been better to hire a guide as it wasn't that insightful just wandering from room to room. It was impressive though. We had a coffee in the restaurant opposite and when getting back on the bikes the guy that served us helped me wheel it onto the road and then said to be careful as most foreigners fall off here. What!? Then off he went. Nervous I pulled away. It was fine for a while and was a nice straight road. After some beautiful views of the sea and the beach we stopped at a sign that said not to go any further as explosions were happening. Eh. People were coming the opposite way so we asked a guy that had pulled over. He walked up to the sign, faced it away and told us it was fine to go through. Shrug. On we went. There was some work being done and the roads were terrible. I was crapping myself. We came to a hill where the road was all rubble and when at the top a huge truck was coming round the corner. I pulled over but then couldn't get my bike over the lumps in the road. One of the construction workers came over and shoved me off the bike and rode to the top for me. On we went like this for the rest of the journey round. I survived and really enjoyed it. I only nearly ran over a dog, a goat and a chicken. Pretty good going I think. It was a cold day and we stopped for some food and to warm up. A woman came running over to us, telling us about her restaurant. We asked if it was warm inside and she said yes and pointed over to a really impressive building with flags flying outside. The menu was a bit pricey but we didn't care. We walked over with her, but it was not the lovely building that was the restaurant. It was the mechanic's garage next to it, filled with motorbikes and the noise of welding and metal clanking. Two tables nestled among the tools, the floor covered with oil. Whatever, we sat down regardless. The food was fresh though that's for sure, off she went to the market to buy the ingredients. We were starving.

We'd booked onto a tour for today that went through Lan Ha Bay by boat to Halong Bay but a non-touristy route. It was absolutely freezing. I sat shivering on the open top deck and a lady came over and gave me her spare pair of trousers to put on over my leggings. Regardless of the cold, the scenery was beautiful as we cruised through the hundreds of limestone cliffs rising from the green water. We stopped at a fish farm to collect the canoes. The tour guide pulled up the floorboards and beneath was the biggest fish ever! Apparently it's a rare type of grouper and the family consider it lucky and even turned down an offer of $10,000 for it. After an amazing lunch we got in the twin kayaks and paddled around. We got a bit competitive and kept racing to the front ahead of everyone else. We explored caves, some light, some pitch black. Back on the boat, it stopped at a beach for swimming. There was no way I was getting in that water. Back on land we got chatting to two girls in our hostel room and all headed out for food. I went to the ATM and my card had been blocked! Urgh, will this ever end. I had to go back to the room and phone up to sort it. I finally got some money out after a lot of stress. We went to the bar and played some pool and beer pong. We got kicked out when it closed at 1am.

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