To Cat Bà and back again
We caught a bus and a boat over to Cat Bà island for a few nights, but it wasn't anything like the island life we'd experienced so far on our trip. There weren't so much tropical beaches to laze around on, more national parks, looming cliffs, and eerie, misty and mountainous lands as far as my dishwater-grey eyes could see.
We stayed at the Central Backpackers hostel, at my insistence, as it was away from the main town and on the edge of the jungle. The hostel itself was pretty boring, the only social area being a bland dining room. The food was shockingly bad, and the BBQ night we arrived at tried to serve us drastically under-cooked chicken. The outdoor area though was spectacular, with a clean swimming pool, winding sleeper tracks, and leaf-style roofed huts, surrounded by steep fog-shrouded jungle cliffs and adjacent to a lake.
When we hired the scooters, as always, I struggled finding a helmet to fit my annoyingly large head (210% 'ed, as my mates call me). Unfortunately, the only one available had the words " I love lipstick", with a delightful kiss in-place of the word 'love'. Jörn could find only a bicycle helmet to fit him, and so, with one of our scooters back-firing giving everyone around ringing ears and the unsettling feeling of being shot at, all we needed was a clown horn to complete the act.
We took our scooters over to Cat Bà national park, and there you truly get a sense of imaginations running wild when King Kong was filmed here. We climbed up a jungle path for an hour to reach a stunning viewpoint:
After climbing back through the jungle we headed back to the main town, and headed towards the Cannon Fort, established by the Japanese during WWII, but also occupied by the French and Vietnamese in subsequent conflicts. The views of the other islands from here were breathtaking :
We had a couple of nights out which were fun, although the bars on the island are subject to the whims of DJ Youtube, where backpackers get into actual arguments over who controls the laptop. There's always one clown who skips the queued songs and puts on his own far-right German sub-culture shite, and there was tonight. If it's not that, it's Desprasito on repeat. Yuck.
Jörn and I met a couple of other German lads who were a lot of fun, and we finished the night challenging them to a pool and table-football tournament.
We returned to the mainland a couple of days later, and back to Hanoi. I really like this place, it's has a strong Viet culture scene with enough ameneties for travellers to keep them comfortable. Most of the good stuff is done out on the streets, and walking around you'll see food being prepared and delicious, fresh, weird and wonderful vegetables all laid out.
Once again South East Asia would provide us with another situation with an over-zealous tourist being a complete dick. We were eating in a local restaurant, where you sat down, got given some food without seeing a menu, and it was delicious. The price on the wall was 30,000 Vietnamese Dong, so about 94p. There was just us and another couple in the restaurant, and we were minding our own business when the other bloke stood up and suddenly started bellowing at a waitress who was half his age and size. They'd tried to charge him the normal price, and his claim was that they'd negotiated down to 20,000 Dong, so a whopping 21p saving. Clearly they'd not understood his valiant efforts to impress his miserable girlfriend (why would you need to know English when there's no menu?) with his negotiation skills and power over the locals, but he wasn't having it.
He had the audacity to follow the girl around the restaurant, and then into the office, and then back out again. He was pointing at her and his chest was puffed up, much like an Ape. Maybe he'd just come from King Kong island too and was feeling rather primitive. I'd had enough by this point, so broke in, told him to shut up, show respect, pay up and leave. He turned around to confront me, saw that Jörn and I were not small Asian girls, instantly backed down like a dog who knows he's beaten, and left. The elderly lady who owned the joint who was sat in the corner smiled at us and bowed her head in thanks as we left.
That night we found an epic whiskey bar, which introduced us to a very different social class, namely the wealthy Vietnamese youth. These sort are a far cry different from those chopping chicken giblets on the street, with a style and fashion sense that makes my old man look like a cave-troll. The bartenders were pro's, and the service was excellent. It was a Tuesday, which is Gentlemens Night of course, and you could buy cigars, get your shoes shined, and all whiskeys were two for one. It's very difficult to find a good whiskey out here, so naturally I opted for a Macallan 15 year, and Jörn was on the Lagavulin. Two each came to 500,000 dong, about £20. Not bad at all. Three of these beauties cost me $165 dollars in New York last year.
It's time to leave, and we're headed back to Thailand for mountains, hippies and scuba diving.