Cat Ba Island

I wake up to the annoying sound of an early alarm clock in our little boat room. Breakfast is in 15 minutes and I’m sure it’ll be just as mediocre as all of our other meals on the tour thus far. I have a quick shower, change and head out to the dining room of the boat. I don’t know what our itinerary for the rest of the day is, but I hope it’s something fun and not too crowded with tourists. It looks like another nice day, no rain! This weather thing has been a miracle.

Breakfast is as I expected; very disappointing. Three pieces of toast, a quarter of a plain omelette, and a third of a banana. When is lunch I’m already hungry.

We’re taken over to Cat Ba island where Tamara and I are told to take our backpacks and get off the boat. Everyone else stays behind. We are being separated again! We wave goodbye and walk into our uncertain future on Cat Ba island. We still have no idea what we’re doing today. I’ve heard rumours of hiking? This would please me. Swimming would also be a-ok. It’s hot out today!

A bus takes us from the Cat Ba docks to the entrance to the national park. We are totally hiking today. Wonderful! I’m not dressed super well for it, I’m in shorts and flip flops, but I doubt it will be an intense hike. We have to follow a guide, who speaks no English but is absolutely hilarious. He climbs up a vine in the jungle and makes monkey noises; he’s awesome.

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The hike starts out slow, with a few man made steps in place of a pathway to lead us up the mountain, then things get real. We start some moderate rock climbing. Then some intense rock climbing. We make it to the peak of a mountain, and some of us find a small hidden pathway down the other side, where we can keep trekking and summit to the top of an even higher mountain just next to us. It’s an over grown trail that looks a little sketchy on the descent, but if it will lead me to a higher mountain top I’m happy to try!
The climb gets pretty intense, and there is even one rocky wall where I think I’ll have to give up and turn around because it’s so challenging, but I’ve come this far and don’t want to turn back now. I realize part of the way through that we’ve lost our guide. I don’t think he even knows we came up here, whoops. Making it to the top is 100% worth the tough climb up. We can see tall limestone peaks all around us for miles, everything covered in lush green jungle. Only a handful of people make it to the top, so there’s the added bonus of very few tourists.
So far on this trip I’ve hiked in every country I’ve visited, totally by accident. I think I’ll make a point of finding a mountain to hike in Cambodia just to complete the pattern. The views are always incredible.

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Another environment rant: It’s no surprise, but there’s a ton of pollution in Cat Ba too. No one seems to care that it’s a fabulous national park. Let’s just toss our garbage everywhere. Just before our descent down from the mountain peak I see a fellow Canadian leave an empty 1.5L bottle of water on a rock and keep walking. Feeling totally fed up with the amount of littering I’ve seen, I confront him.
“You did not just leave you’re bottle on that rock.”
“Uh…well I don’t really want to carry it down..”
“I don’t care, neither does anyone else and it isn’t going to walk itself down to a trash bin. Put it in your backpack.”
He does.
Maybe I was a little intense but like, HELL no. We’re at the top of a beautiful mountain and you’re going to just toss aside a plastic bottle? I’ll stab you.

We come back down from the mountain, which is, in some ways, harder than climbing up. My legs are covered in scratches from tree branches, sharp rocks and other mystery injuries I endured on our little trek. In combination with all my bug bites I’ve gotten over the last few weeks, I can safely say my legs are NOT sexy right now. At the bottom, we meet up with the rest of the people on our tour who just summited the one peak. Some of them said they tried to venture down the small hidden pathway to the next peak, but that the guide yelled at them to stop. So I guess we weren’t supposed to do that…which makes it even more awesome.

Our bus picks us up to take us to our hotel for the night. We don’t get time to shower or do anything before sitting down for lunch, which is surprisingly alright. The food is hot!! There’s real little baby squids in the stir fry. A true seafood lunch, finally! We’re on an island after all. I don’t want to go too far and say the food is good but it’s hot and it’s not awful so we’ve totally upgraded.

After lunch we’re given “free time”. I don’t know if they’ve just run out of things for us to do or if this is part of the plan but it’s cool with me. Tamara and I retreat to our room to take a much needed shower, then we go in search of a beach. We easily find the water, but there’s no where to swim, just boats. Some boat drivers offer to drive us to a beach for a mere 100,000 dong ($5) but we don’t have that kinda cash so we keep walking. We come across a couple on a motorbike with a map. We ask to look at it, and they help to point us in the right direction of a beach. It’s a quiet area in front of a resort, but we can access it for free and most importantly, we can swim! The sun has gone away and the water is quite cold, but it’s just so nice to be reunited with the sand and salt water.
We hang out here for a couple hours and relax.

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Upon returning to the hotel, I stay in the lobby for a little while where I can access the wifi! Yippee, internet. I then go upstairs and join Tamara who had gone up right away to take a nap. I too, fall asleep for a little while, but she wakes me up just in time for dinner. Phew! Ain’t nobody got dong for buying their own food.

Dinner is similar to lunch. Hot, not terrible, and acceptable. I’m actually surprisingly hungry, and sharing food with 7 other people at a table can get difficult, so I make sure to fill up on rice. You can always count on rice.

The pollution in Cat Ba is out of control y’all. This is the view from my hotel window. Classy.

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When I get back up to our room, I go to get something out of my day pack when I realize I can’t find it. Hmm, that’s strange because I know I brought it with me home from the beach. But oh shit no, could I have left it downstairs after using the wifi?? Please no. I run downstairs to look for my bag and it’s missing. I ask reception but no one has the backpack. It’s been stolen. It’s gone. I almost can’t believe it. I feel like it’s NOT gone and that I’ll still find it, but I also know in reality there’s no way I can retrieve it now. The only upside is that reception still has my passport from when they took it to make a copy, so at least I can still leave the country. God, maybe I’ll just go home. I can’t be bothered to try maneuvering through Vietnam and Cambodia with absolutely no cards. My tour guide, whom I’ve grown to loathe, tries to help me find the backpack by tracking down all the people who sat at my table for dinner. He thinks maybe someone picked up my bag by accident. Unlikely. He gets a list of the people from the table and starts to track them down. The FIRST person we see in the stairwell happened to be one of the guests at the table. We ask if he has seen a bag fitting my description and oh lawdy I don’t believe it, he has!! He rushes into his room, rummages around for a minute or two, and comes back, with my beautiful little backpack in hand. It’s an absolute miracle. I shriek a little bit.
I’m such a fool for leaving it behind. Who does that?! One of the first things I thought of when I realized I had lost my bag, was how I would break the news to my mother. An hour earlier we had just talked about this on Facebook, and I basically told her that only stupid people get their stuff stolen. Aka. (almost) me.

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I check, and all of my cash and cards are still in my wallet. I can’t believe my good fortune! Lesson learned. Never again.

Tamara receives some great news! She had taken a test to apply for occupational therapy school, and tonight she finds out that she’s been accepted. I am so so happy for her! My mother is also an occupational therapist, so I guess I feel an extra special kind of excitement that Tamara is going to have the same career.

We check out a couple bars in Cat Ba but don’t find anything special. I don’t know if we’ve been having bad luck with bars lately or there just aren’t any good ones around. I’ll never know.

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