Cat Ba, Vietnam
November 25, 2010
Happy Thanksgiving, America! After nearly missing our ferry in Hai Phong, we have arrived in Cat Ba.
OUr driver didn’t know exactly how to get us to the Ferry, which I’m told would not happen if you took the bus. The cost of a car was 205,000VND * 6 and the ferry 110,000 VND, which equates to a total of $15USD /person.
We opted out of the bus option simply because we are a large group traveling together with a lot of luggage. There is no mistake on this trip, we are all
The sun was setting when we left the harbour and we arrived in Cat Ba in the dark.
The bus entered Cat Ba and made a few stops before our
final destination. I had read of the scams targeted at tourists and at one stop, a woman came onboard the bus and pointed at us saying, ‘last stop.’
The bus driver didn’t deny it and even got off the bus to help get our luggage. One of our group members came after him and said it was definitely not
the last stop and he put our bags back and we stayed on the bus. We got off at the last stop with no issues after that.
There are a lot of shops and people looking for your attention here on the main strip.
It is a very westernized
strip and full of tourists. We ignore everyone and make our way to our hotel: The Cat Ba Dream Hotel. I share a room with Tamara, again, which is nice
since it can be unnerving having a room to oneself in a foreign place. We get a spacious room with two twins and a decent bathroom, but no internet.
Dinner is at The Noble House, which is also home to Slo Pony Adventures. I try to avoid the burgers, pasta,
or pizza options and order the fried tofu, again. It’s ok, but I’m not adventurous enough to try anything else just yet. After dinner, I check out the
climber’s lounge and find Slo behind a desk. We chat for a bit and I learn that he is originally from S. America (Ghianna) but has lived in the States, Vermont,
and climbed in place like Rhumney, the Red River Gorge and Seattle. He’s a really pleasant guy with a chatty personality and warm smile. I wonder how he maintains
high spirits with a bum finger and so much work that it impacts his ability to climb as much as he’d like. He tells me about the plan for the next day and as anticipated
it’s more about exploring the rock islands than it is about climbing.
Once again, I’m up early and with lock down in place here, too, I attempt to stay occupied and in bed long
enough or until my room mate decides she’s done trying to sleep. Turns out we’re both up, again, and I observe the local children racing off to school at 6:30am.
I also note that they weren’t returning home until 4:30 that afternoon. Breakfast is typical western eggs and toast options. Nothing exciting there. Slo
has arranged a car to take us to our boat and he’s planning to join us for the day. We head off shortly after eating and set sail for the China Sea. Our mission
is to scope out a number of desirable cliffs, which we will come back and climb after some rebolting and logistical sorting. I have a some photos and a little
video footage on my webshots site.
The day was long and the boat was slow, but it was relaxing and the scenary was amazing. There is a lot of rock out
here. Slo even worked in some time for Monique and I to climb a pitch on a wall early in the day. After not having climbed in a few days and having been relatively inactive
with all of the travel, we were both hurting on the climb. The climb, however, was brilliant. There was a small tufa line near the start, but it was mostly pockets, some edges, smooth buldges and
a crack line you could jam and finger lock. It’s a classic on the wall and fi time allows, I’d love to go back for it! The rock itself is not overly steep, but
the moves are powerful and it climbs steeper than it looks…well, this line did anyway. We observed a number of brilliant looking cliffs with varying degrees of
steepness. The Saigon wall was truly impressive. With our appetites wet from one pitch, Monique and I can hardly contain ourselves to try more! Tomorrow we set off to
Butterfly Valley where we hope to pitch ourselves silly. This in anticipation of some deep water soloing on Saturday.
Meanwhile, back at Cat Ba, Tamara has scoped out another hotel that boasts a Bay view, a larger bathroom, and internet on each floor. We’re
probably going to switch rooms tomorrow morning. I discovered a local market that has reasonably priced goods and that sells Tim Tams, of all things. I have now seen patisseries, german goods,
keebob street vendors, bordeaux wine, and other strange things here. It’s truly an internationally influenced country. And, speaking of ‘influences,’ I
brushed up on my Vietnam history. The vietnamese people are truly amazing. Not only are they determined to be and remain an independent country, they are patient.
Not even a 1000 year occupation could deter them from rising up the moment an opportunity presented. And a side bar, in reference to a remark from my Chinese friend who was humoured by a monument
she encountered during her travels in Vietnam. This monument depicted China as their ‘Northern Thieves,’ I now understand that remark. For perspective, China still thinks of Vietnam as a ‘renegade province,’ While Vietnam’s sentiment is
a bit more hostile (consider the 1000+ years of occupation and struggle for occupation). Apparently, the thieves sentiment is drawn from the 15th century when China seized control
and carted off Vietnam’s National Archives and some of the country’s intellectuals leaving an irreparable loss to the Vietnamese culture. (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/vietnam/history#72278).