The trip schedule had us up early to be ready for our next round of activities which would include today’s transfer to Cat Ba Island. The sky was still overcast and the clouds threatened rain but the bit we were to receive during the day was to be mere drizzles compared to the deluge we suffered yesterday. Myself and the compere from last night were still having a bit of a giggle over the songs we had entertained our audience with – God knows what the songs we were singing were actually about – and the audience did not seem to be talking to us!
First up was a trip in the launch to the nearby Pearl Farm. The entire place had been built on a floating dock and a big workshop and jewellery shop was out front and alongside the dock were the ‘fields’ containing the oysters. The guide at the pearl farm presented the entire process in some detail and we found that the place employed a good number of local staff all involved in the various parts of the process but mainly shelling the oysters.
The guide also showed off some of the more exotic looking examples that the shop sold, some of the pearls were pink, black, even yellow in colour. Not all of the oysters do contain pearls but the guide allowed a little lad in the group to take part in an ‘opening’ and the one he opened actually did contain a pearl – hoorah. The guide did not let the young fellow keep the pearl though which would have been more of an interesting end to the tour.
At the end of our little outing to see the pearls the group from our boat was all split up and we went our separate ways. Our own fate was to be sailed to Cat Ba Island in a smaller boat for a spot of cycling. This turned out to be a really great tour, the hills just steep enough to be interesting and the flats were even better and the scenery throughout absolutely superb – lush green, various blue and turquoise ponds and colourful flowers. There were loads of butterflies on the route and although we did not realise it at the time, there were also lots of big spiders on webs spun between the trees just above our heads as we cycled. The tour took us to a small village which was really just a main road with a few houses dotted along it. Once there, our guide took us to a traditional house – an old wooden house with even older wood outbuildings. Funnily enough the house was also home to a traditional looking lady and gentleman and the woman seemed to be intent on using one of the biggest, sharpest blades to fast chop banana shoots which really was quite a scary thing to watch.
Fortunately she still had all her fingers by the time we left her, we had to purchase some Rambutan from her as it was almost a case of buying anything to stop her from using the chopper! We then rode back to the boat and I am not sure if it was my imagination but I thought I heard a blood curdling scream of someone chopping off a finger but besides that the ride back was as good as the one getting there.
Our small boat then took us out just a bit further into the bay where we had a lovely spot of lunch before trying to jump off the upper decks of the boat into the water, all very good fun before we sailed off to another drop off point where a minibus picked us up and then took us to Cat Ba Town and our new digs. The hotel we were staying in was top notch and our room a lot better than anything we had had on our travels before – we were staying in the lap of luxury. The weather was starting to look up too so we decided to go for a walk up to Fort Cannon.
The fort is a gun emplacement on the top of the hill just outside of town so we got a trike up to the entrance and then we walked the rest of the way up. Round the guns there were some dodgy looking manikin soldiers and part of the emplacement was the original tunnels which was really interesting and somewhat spooky as well.
We stopped at the cafe there at the very top of the hill to grab and ice cream and catch a look at the views, which were just about 360 and brilliant.
The ice cream though was horrific it being Durian – it was ice cream in texture but definitely durian in flavour which, at best, is an acquired taste – yuk. From the cafe viewpoint we then took the very scenic walk all the way back into town and once there did a bit of people watching whilst having a beer or two. Although we were in Vietnam we realistically could have been anywhere in the UK, although the people looked different the things they were doing – laughing, drinking, posing, eating, whatever, it was all the same as back home and, probably the same as loads of places throughout the world. At seasides at least we are all very much the same kind of people under the skin.
We got showered and ‘changed’ to go and have our tea in the hotel, this was on one of the upper floors. The room was full of people and there seemed to be a bit of a celebration going on and two of the bigger tables were near us and they started downing drinks with a toast. I am not really sure how these things happen but the guys invite me over for a drink and they keep filling up my glass then both mine and Liz’s glass too.
We had a few rounds of beer and then the guys ramped it up a notch and moved over to rice wine. The guys were a great bunch, the only fly in the ointment was that they actually thought that I looked like Nicky Butt … Nicky Butt, I ask you! Disgusted (lol) in a really good way and truly heart warmed by the guys and their toasting and photo shooting – it turned out they were all part of a company that were all on an extended weekend away together – we eventually had to make our excuses or it would have got seriously messy!.
After leaving them and both of us feeling like we had drunk quite a fair bit, we then went for another walk along the front and then sat down to do a bit more of the people watching that we had earlier. The day and Cat Ba town itself had been an excellent place and day and I would recommend it to anyone.