arriving to the caves
descent of the dragon
“the junk/boat was fairly big – it had 10 rooms on the first floor, dinning room for 20 + on the second, and a deck up top. we started with lunch which was decent. all-inclusive usually means the food’s gonna suck, and in this case, it pretty much all did. the meals on the boat were okay: sticky rice, fried something (either french fries, fish, calamari, peanuts, peas, you name it) nem (fried spring rolls), grilled fish (unfillet’d of course), steamed cabage of some sort, and sauteed noodles with either a meat or fish…. like i said, decent, but bland for sure. and as drinks weren’t included, not even water, we suffered cause we refused to pay the 4x markup price…although we did splurg once on a beer.
keeping with food, the food on the island at the hotel we stayed at was horrible. it was as if you were at the worst hospital ever, and it was ‘chinese food day’, slopped up by the lunch room lady played by chris farley… horrible i tell you! and it made me sick and even jeff a bit too.
food aside…. the bay was great. our boat first took us to a giant cave on an island. the boat pulls up to the cement dock stairway and then the music instantly starts. it’s like we’re at disneyland! the loud speaker is spitting out some form of traditional music followed by a vietnamese voice, and then an english voice. now we’re on the ride… she explains to keep the island clean by depositing all rubbage in the penguin and dolphin trash cans and stay on the path… cross between jurassic park or disneyland for sure.
van whee and captain, chugging beers, you just cant see it in the pic
we hiked up a short stairway to enter this massive cave. it was totally unbelievable. by far the biggest cave we will probably ever see in our lives. all in all it’s the size of a small mall – a tall, huge room of many forms and shapes. but, continuing with the disney theme, they’ve wired it with electricity and colored lights reflect off different walls or bottoms to represent water i guess…or something… kinda crazy. still, the natural beauty prevailed. van whee took us through with his laser light and pointed out all the shapes of people and creatures you could see, like when you’re looking at clouds…but he forgot to distribute enough drugs for the rest of us so we could be in his same frame of mind…. after 25 minutes, we started to exit the cave, only to find the beautiful bay has now been encompassed by a massive wind and rain storm. we cancelled the second cave we were to hike to and made our way down the slippery cement stairway to our junk.
rushing from one side of the boat to the other
now, we’re soaking wet and stuck on the boat realizing “there went our afternoon of kayaking around the bay.” the boat starts its departure and we’re on our way to find cover in a cove around the bay. as we’re moving along, I of course bring up “whats the likelihood of a boat like this tipping over?” after jeff and this guy from boston discuss and come to the decision that it’s too big to tip, (rather it would have to sink from hitting a rock or something). moments later, we hear a crash outside and one of the deck hands rushes inside and yells something loud and crazy that then results with all 20 of us frantically moving to one side of the boat to balance it out. the sound had come from two of the beautiful giant flower pots they had outside that were obviously not secured down as they slide around breaking and flying overboard. it seems that we had got caught at just the imperfect time in this wind tunnel between these two islands as we were trying to get around them.
our nice room below deck
it took about 10 minutes of shifting side to side and opening the windows so the rainy wind could blow through the ship rather than at it, until we had safely motored to cover. kinda crazy and exciting – at least since we survived it!
since our afternoon was shot, we ended up taking a long nap in our actually very comfortable and cozy room. then dinner while we watched the lightning and thunder that surround us.
in the morning we awoke at 6:30 and hit up the kayaks now that it had cleared and the sun was beginning to shine. we rowed around for 30 minutes or so then retreated to our room and warmed up before breakfast. then after our horrible cold breakfast, we motored over to cat ba island where we would spend the next night.
view of the island from our kayak
now we seriously were on jurassic park. we got in our little bus and drove through amazing limestone peaks where we were awaiting t rex to jump out at any moment. unfortunately i guess we were a few million years too late. our first stop was the national park. we hiked a short but gruesome hike to the top of a peak where we climbed a scary old rickety army look-out tower and gazed across the mountain peaks and could look down at the old army base (vc army). very cool, but super scary, for me at least. jeff isn’t fazed much by heights, but half the people couldn’t even make it to the top. i did, but i could feel my legs almost about to give out if i thought about it too hard, or looked down through the rusty old crate top.
after the trek we went to our mediocre hotel, had a horrible lunch, then hit up the beach (cause now it’s sunny). we went for a dip, sunbathed, then i got sick and couldn’t really leave the room, or toilet for that matter. not much going on on the island but a lot of building. there were whole areas cleared out with the giant billboards showing pictures of the future projects that looked like condominium developments and more resort hotels… the new phuket of vietnam – too bad.
on the third day we boated back about two hours to mainland, sunbathing on the top deck, not too shabby.
bia hoi – our only saving grace – translates to beer fresh. only 18 cents a mug if you can believe that! tastes kinda like dirty fermented water at first, but after one or two you get used to it. it’s made by locals, unfermented and drank on the street corners or in little cafes. that’s been part of our daily routine, in addition to meeting lots of expats from around the world that are here teaching english or who own tourism companies or restaurants.
food, we’ve tried fried corn kernels rubbed in a butter custard thing (ultimate popcorn), squid jerky dipped in a sweet and hot sauce, kebabs, either in a pita or baguettes (decent), and more pho (still our first experience has been the best).
now we’re loaded up on oranges and we’re getting on a 13 hour bus ride south to hue in the middle of the DMZ (de-militarized zone) which once was an imperial capitol and has an old citadel in it…. we’ll see. then jeff just might have his luck as there may be surf at the infamous china beach which is just south of hue….
overall, hanoi is still in our tops. we found out it is a city of around 8 million now, with 6.5 million scooters! we’ll be uploading photos to prove it at the next stop. great people though, with some hasslers everywhere, but we’re used to it now….
peace and love!
xo, stacy and jeff”
at top of peak
top of lookout tower
sign on top
and seriously old and rusty...missing last step!
from below looking up
old army barracks
cat ba harbor
jeff takin a dip
3rd day on the boat and sunny!
always sportin the flag
view off junk deck
front of boat
this does no justice to show how many there really are
motor transport for anything and everything