Cat Ba!

Sorry I haven’t kept up lately. I have learned when my bowels are trying to destroy me, I guess I’m not in my chipper mood to write.

It is still the rainy season in Northern Vietnam, so while Cat Ba had its beautiful moments, it more often had drizzles and cooler weather.  Definitely not warm enough for beach play, which I had hoped for on Christmas Day. It is just a three-hour bus ride from Hanoi to reach the “speed boat” that would take us the five-minute ride to the island, then another thirty minutes by bus to get to our hostel.  These three modes of transportation, which only cost $10 bucks each, were worth it. It was nice to escape the constant honking and air polluted haze that hung over the city of Hanoi. We ended up staying at Mountain View, and by this time I was starting to realize that when it comes to Airbnb, they tend to sugar coat their dwelling.  We definitely had a beautiful view but were quite a bit further away from the beach then what I read. Also, it spoke of a nice stroll to reach our room. It was nearly 200 stone stairs straight up. After we settled in we rented a motorbike ($5 a day!) to head into town for dinner. The food was obviously delicious! I still have not eaten anywhere that left me unsatisfied.  Leaving the restaurant we realized we had a flat tire. It was pitch black when you left town, and we were still terrible at the language. We called the hostel to tell them the bike broke down, but the only response we kept receiving was, “who you?” While I am struggling on the phone a woman comes and grabs Walter and starts pulling him away and saying, “STRONG MAN, STRONG MAN!”.  Now I’m confused on both sides. It turns out she just wanted him to move a tree, which in turn she spoke with our hostel receptionist and promptly told him what happened and how to find us! We were saved within ten minutes. We have read a few articles on how bike owners would sabotage the bikes and trick the travelers into paying for it. Luckily, this wasn’t true. We did not have to pay to replace the tire, however, our full tank of gas we paid for suspiciously disappeared.  So maybe they siphon gas out overnight? Gas is a volatile substance so it does vaporize eventually; that could be another reason. It was pretty smooth sailing from there. We visited Cat Ba national park, Canon Fort, and spent a day exploring the island. Cannon Fort is an area of the island where their military defenses were set during the Vietnam War. We were able to see the canons, trenches, and an underground tunnel. We saw how sardines were prepared. They literally just lay hundreds of them out to dry on a tarp.  We had one day of sunny weather, but it still wasn’t warm enough for the beach. This was also the time my body began to betray me. I had a sinus infection that lasted almost a week. I have learned so many lessons already, and probably the most important one is to carry toilet paper with us. I would sometimes find myself in a bathroom with no toilet paper and no bidet. I do not want to explore further how some people might handle this predicament. Also, the mattresses they use are roughly 2-4 inches thick. I did not know until this trip that I do not have the ability to lay flat.  Apparently, you can request a “soft bed”, and I’m sure it will be worth every extra dollar. We will be heading to Sapa, Vietnam next to see the mountains and hopefully some rice terraces! I hope everyone is doing well back home!

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