Monday, December 24, 2007

Halong and Cat Ba

I decided to go to Halong City and then arrange a boat through Halong Bay. I made it to the bus station in Hanoi and when getting out of the cab there was someone standing there asking where I was going. I ignore these people and just go to a ticket window where I buy a ticket and I did this here but the guy stayed with me the whole time and turned out he was the guy in charge of the bus that I took. It took me a few minutes on the bus and then I sort of figured out that there is a sort of competition for passengers between busses. It seems that there was another bus in front of the one that I was on taking the same route and this seemed to mean that my bus would lose passengers to them. The way to resolve this was for my bus driver to drive like a bat out of hell until he could pass the other bus. Of course they were also always looking for passengers on the side of the road so for awhile it was wild driving to pass the other bus then pick up passengers while the other bus passed us and then drive like a crazy man to get in front again. At one point we got well ahead of the other bus but the driver and guy taking the money on the bus were always looking behind to see where the other bus was. It also meant that when they would stop to pick someone up or drop someone off they wanted to do this as fast as possible. It seemed to me they would just shove the people in or out of the bus and just because the bus was full did not mean that they stopped picking up people. There were 3 seats in a row and one folding seat that went down into the isle but they put 5 people in each row except mine. Prior to the bus filling up the ticket guy on the bus tried to get me to pay for an extra seat for my bag but I just set the bag in front of me on the floor and told him no. He did not like me not paying extra very much but after a few times of me saying no he left me alone.

It also turned out the bus did not actually go into Halong City and I was dropped off on the highway a few kilometers from the city center. There were waiting cabs where I was dropped off so just caught one into the center. I think if I would have just booked a tourist bus from the hotel in Hanoi I would have paid less then doing the trip with cabs and the local bus but this way I got another hair raising travel experience.

I also should have booked my Halong Bay boat trip in Hanoi it turns out. My travel book talked about getting the tourist boat to Cat Ba Island for around 70,000 Dong but I could only find people willing to sell me a trip on a tourist boat for 3 times the books price. 200,000 Dong is not really that much money and it would be stupid to not go through Halong Bay or return to Hanoi to buy a trip so I paid what I thought was a bit over priced.

The weather was not that nice on the day that I did the boat ride but the rock formations in Halong Bay are still very striking.

The time on the boat was a bit shorter than I had been told and I miss understood the dropping off point. I thought the boat went to the town of Cat Ba on Cat Ba Island but the boat stopped on the other side of the island. There was a van waiting and took everyone that was staying the night on Cat Ba and their stuff to the Town of Cat Ba. The van was big enough for everyone but could have been a bit bigger for all of our stuff. I am not the only one who seems to have too big of a bag. I had to set with a few of the bags sort of on my lap but it was a pretty ride across the island. The island looks a lot like Yangshuo in China but a bit more hills.

I spent 2 nights 1 day in the town of Cat Ba and did not do a lot other than walk around and enjoy the view. I did walk between the 3 beaches just outside of the town. I walked first to beach #1 and followed the road to beach #2. At beach #2 I saw a walk way hanging off of the cliff that seemed to follow the cliff back around to beach one so decided it would be a good way to walk. The walk way provided a great view out over the water but was surprised when I reached beach #1. The gate was locked and had some sort of sign facing the other direction. I did not want to walk back to beach #2 so climbed over the gate to read the sign that said "Walkway closed for repairs". I don't know why they only put a sign at one end of the walkway but I enjoyed the walk and the walkway did not fall into the water while I was on it. The following day I walked on the other walkway between beaches 1 and 3. This is a picture from the walkway and a bit of beach 3.

I also walked into the center of the town away from the water and was surprised to see what I think was training for a Cock Fight. The rosters had something over there beaks so they could not peek each other but seemed to be fighting while a couple of guys watched.

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