We woke up ready to spend the day on a boat navigating across the countless beautiful bays to the east of Cat Ba island. After finding out that the Malarone (anti-malaria) tablets were having their first side effects on me such as causing very intense dreaming and formation of an excessive number of spots on my legs, we decided to have breakfast at our hotel with some spectacular banana pancakes. I say spectacular as I was expecting banana-flavoured pancakes, instead they were pancakes with thin slices of fresh banana in the middle, yumm!
Shortly after having our breakfast we were picked up by a minibus full of other, mostly European, tourists, and transported to a small port on the south-east side of the island, not too far from town. There we boarded the wooden boat that was going to take us around for the day. The first half hour of navigation was nice as we were enjoying the surrounding landscape: a charming collection of rocks in different sizes covered in vegetation that sometimes formed small islands and others just sat in the water by themselves. With the low tide we were able to see how the lower part of the rocks had been worn away be the water, and it suddenly hit me how all of that beauty before my eyes had been there for thousands of years, changing at such an imperceptible pace, while everything else around seems fast-forwarded in comparison.
And I remembered things my high school science teacher would say, such as”… ten thousand years- basically 2 days if you think in terms of geological time”.
Soon my romantic thoughts about how the Earth is alive were replaced by a slight sea-sickness and some kind of low expectations for the day as we had been navigating for maybe two hours and the excitement had slowly worn off. Just when our pessimism was about to hit a new high, the boat stopped in a bay where we were able to swim and kayak in crystal clear waters and it was beautiful. With the kayaks we were able to explore the surroundings, enter grottos and tunnels and see the majestic vertical rocks from very close, and later, swimming, we reached the sandy beaches formed by rocks entering the water with a more gentle slope.
After this relaxing and fun time we had lunch on the boat with a quite wide variety of Vietnamese dishes, while socialising with the other people that were on the excursion with us.
Better of all I remember two British sisters in their mid-twenties that had recently quit their jobs back home to take a year out and backpack in South East Asia, they were almost three months in and still enjoying it from the sounds of it. A German girl was travelling solo and making friends along the way, she had been travelling for 8 months (out of 12) at that point, throughout SEA. She told us how she went through phases where her first three months were amazing and exciting, then after a while she started feeling some home-sickness and solitude and passed the 6 months makr she reached this new state of mind where she felt at peace, didn’t want to go back and started enjoying again the feeling of not being tied to one place, she also explained to us how the reason for this journey was a quest to “find herself” again after her 7 years relationship ended. There were a lot of other young people from all over Europe and it was interesting to find out how we all had different reasons, perspectives and approaches to our travels.
Later in the afternoon the boat started navigating again, this time we were headed to the Monkey Island. The “landing” was picturesque to say the least: because of the absence of a port of any sort, we had to walk down a bendy 20cm-wide, steep wooden board from the bow of the boat to the shore, with a potential 2.5-3 metres fall in shallow waters, all of this while the boat was being constantly moved by the waves, making our footbridge wobbly and unstable. On the island we found a small bar with a veranda and some monkeys nearby.. That’s when I got slightly carried away taking pictures and observing our furry cousins:
I left for Vietnam with two lenses only (for my camera) in my backpack: the so-called “nifty fifty” (50mm) and a wide-angle (which I only used once I think).
On that day trip I only had the 50mm on me which made the “photoshoot” particularly challenging as I had to get really close to the monkeys and at the same time be ready to get out of the way in case they thought it was TOO close.
Of course I was not the only one hanging out with”the locals”, and of course some idiot had to throw a stone at one of them which made me so angry.. I don’t think they spoke English or I would have made one of those “how would you like it if I did that to you?!”-kind of scene.
At some point I’m not sure of what happened exactly- maybe the monkeys were annoyed by me too in a more subtle way-, one of the monkeys suddenly sprang towards me, I immediately stood up and skilfully dodged it for a chase that lasted a few seconds, while my self-preservation instinct inside my head was shouting “YOU DIDN’T GET THE ANTI-RABIES VACCINE!!!”
Seeing Silvia’s reaction to this episode really made me wish someone had filmed it.
A few minutes later one of the other tourists visiting the island was bitten on the calf- again so glad I managed to escape it!
We only had about an hour to spend on the island and because I used almost all of it to hang out with the monkeys we didn’t have enough time to go for a hike which I was disappointed about.
After we boarded back on our boat the journey back to Cat Ba started and on our way we saw many floating villages like the one in the picture below. There was the option of spending the night in one of them but that would have delayed our departure on the following day, plus, although I would have loved to spend some time in a floating house I am not sure of how I would have reacted to seasickness, so Silvia and I decided to go back to the main island.
Once in Cat Ba we went went back to the hotel for a shower- and I tried taking a long exposure panorama for the second time ever.
We later went out to have dinner at one of the restaurants near the waterfront, after which we took a walk through the night market that was taking place in front of the main pier. Unfortunately I previously decided to leave my camera in our room so I didn’t take any pictures there but the scenery was as colourful as the panorama over Cat Ba and full of music and sounds and kids playing around.
Again thank you all for following my blog! Day 5 will be posted in a few days so stay tuned for that!
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