Anthony and Erica on the road to Mandalay 2006 travel blog

Fishermen's homes

This is what I had to walk across to get to my...

The kayaks and me

On the roof of our boat, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Excellent!

A better class of tourist

Our bikes ready for action

Interior, Cat Ba Island

A bike with gears and brakes for a change

My weekend home

Fishing village outside Cat Ba Town

Didn't sleep too bad considering, and it was great to open the curtains and look straight out at the islands surrounding the boat, this is such an awesome place. So after breakfast we drive off again, and then leave the Canadians and the Austrians to go back to the mainland on our boat, while we transfer to another smaller boat, tracked by tiny flying fish as we go.

First stop is for a bit of kayaking, which turns out to be quite an experience, especially for a non-swimmer. First it involves walking across these rickety narrow frames that make up a fish farm, to get from where our boat is moored to where the kayaks are. Vlad has my camera in his waterproof bag as I have good reason to fear falling in, although I don't (though one of the Swedes does later). Kayaking involves getting wet, not suprisingly, but this is worsened by the occasional drizzle. We were meant to be kayaking through a tunnel cave, but the tide is too high for us to get in it, so we generally paddle around amongst the islands, stopping at some beaches. All very atmospheric, right up until the tropical storm starts. We row like hell for the nearest beach and then seek shelter. By now we are all very wet (so much so that some just carry on swimming in the downpour), and our boat that was meant to be picking us up has vanished. Eventually, as the downpour shows no sign of abating and some of us are thinking in terms of news headlines, Caung and the Norwegian girl paddle off to find our boat, and rescue. It was heart-lifting to hear the sound of its engine returning.

A change of clothes, and an even finer multi-course meal, somehow cooked up on this scuzzy little boat. Then we meet up with another boat to take several mountain bikes on board, and head off for Viet Hai Harbour on one side of Cat Ba Island. We ride a few miles into the interior and walk a bit to look at rural lifestyle, etc, and then back again. Not suprisingly perhaps, it is a lot like rural China around Yangshuo. A brief visit to see some monkies on another island, and then as the sun set we headed for civilisation at the main town on Cat Ba Island, where we are in this huge flash-ish hotel overlooking the local fishing fleet and floating fishermen's town, though not as nice a view as that may sound. The seafront is quite developed in a Mediterranean sort of way that is a bit surreal after Ha Long Bay, though Chinese development plans will take it an awful lot further. Go there quick! An OK meal in the hotel and a bit of an explore. Internet access dreadfully slow, and no-one else seems to want to go on the piss! So an early night.

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