The day started at 6.30am this morning so that we could shower, change, and pack, and then head for breakfast on the top floor of the hotel at 7am. The breakfast was pretty damn average, but it filled us up, and after it we went back to the room to grab our stuff and head down to the lobby where our private bus was going to be leaving at 8am for Harlong Bay.
The first part of the journey was about two hours before we stopped at a countryside factory where they made all sorts of handmade ceramics, from vases to ornaments, and that was pretty cool. Once back on the road it was another couple hours before we stopped at a port of Harlong Bay to get on a boat, and a short journey later we were parked in the harbour where we had a 6 course lunch, though there were a few seafood dishes that didn’t exactly take my fancy.
Once we had finished the lunch, the boat continued across the way to an island with an amazing cave system, though the name of which currently escapes me. We spent about 30 minutes walking through the system which had been highly modified with coloured lights and concrete paths and stairs, which of course was odd coming from New Zealand, where we are more used to our caves only having wooden paths that are built to protect every aspect of the cave. After that we were back on the boat for another 30 minute journey to our final destination of Cat Ba island, the largest in the area.
We made landfall and met up with our private bus, that had come across on the ferry, and drove deeper into the island. Along the way we stopped off at another cave that had been a Vietcong medical base during the war, and it was odd walking into a large cave system and see it all converted into concrete rooms and corridors, including pools and large open areas for cinema screenings. Still pretty cool though.
We continued on though on the bus, and what felt like a 30 minute drive all up, we were at the main centre, which was a one main street kind of place, so very much like a beach town. We were told this was more designed for the local Vietnamese people than tourists, so to expect hard beds, less English speakers, and bad western food. Not long after getting to the hotel though we were off again for a group dinner.
The dinner was a bit of a debacle, as Bon had never been there before, but had to find a place that met all our group requirements, and even though they were friendly people, the food took way too long. I was the first to order, and the first to get my food, but the time between my dish turning up, and the last dish turning up for our 14th member, was around 45 minutes. We were pretty sure they were only making one or two dishes at a time, and so what should have been a nice hour at the restaurant turned into nearly 2.
Though once we had eaten, which was still nice food, we headed back to the hotel to relax and then hit the sack, as for most of us the next day was going to be an early one, with awake up calls of around 6am, as our private bus would be there right on 7.30am to take us to our early morning adventure.
Today I want to talk about marking things on your map so that you can find them again later. In today’s digital world you’ll most likely have a smart phone of tablet with a decent map app on it, like Google Maps or Triposo, and they all allow you to put marks of your current location, which trust me is very handy. Often you’ll find a place you want to see more of, be it a shop or landmark, but because of the timing you can’t see it right now. So grab your device, open your app, mark the spot, and when you’re able to come back later in the day or days later, you’ll know exactly where to find it.