Escape from Cat Ba

Cat Ba Travel Blog

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Sailboats and seagulls
I woke up early before my alarm went off. In clear weather, there are supposed to be great sunrises on Cat Ba Island. But it was still overcast. I decided to get up anyway and walk around the island. I came back and had breakfast with a couple of people in my group, packed up my things and went to the hotel where I had gotten my ticket. All I really knew was that my ticket was supposed to get me back to Hanoi and the first step was a bus ride. After that, I wasn't sure.

I waited and waited and there was no bus. I saw a guy standing in front of the tourism office next door, looking as anxious as I felt. I asked him if he was heading to Hanoi. He was, and I was happy that I wasn't going to be the only foreigner.
He and his wife were from Southern France and had taken a Halong Bay tour with a night on Cat Ba Island. They decided that they wanted to stay longer on Cat Ba so they had to get back to Hanoi on their own. I explained that I had the opposite situation.

The bus finally came and we relaxed. We sat in the back and he spoke French with some of the Vietnamese people. The bus went all over the island picking up passengers. It was actually a nice way to see the lush green island. After an hour or so, we made it to a dock. The French couple got off so I did too. I stuck with them so incase I ended up somewhere random, I would at least have company I could communicate with.

We got on a ferry which took us to another dock where there was a van waiting to pick us up. The van wasn't big enough for everyone and someone said another van would come shortly. I hoped so. I had to go to the bathroom so I told the French couple to wait for me while I booked it across the wobbly dock to a bathroom on a boat. I made it back just in time for the second van. I was crammed up front with the French couple and we drove on a bumpy unpaved road through an industrial area. Eventually the road was paved and we reached a city, I think it was Haiphong. Everyone got off the van, but the driver told the foreigners to stay on.

He drove a little bit longer and stopped. We wondered where we were and why he stopped. He pointed to a bus driving down the street in the other direction. We figured we needed to get on it. We got over to the bus and it didn't stop. The courier motioned to us to hurry up and climb aboard the moving bus. We got on and spread out in the back out of the empty bus. It was the last transfer so this bus would take us all the way back to Hanoi.

I fell asleep and woke up to a scandalous Vietnamese movie being played on the bus TV. I chatted some more with the French couple and we exchanged e-mail addresses. I found out that they were staying at Sofitel, around the corner from my hotel. When we were finally in Hanoi, the bus kept stopping to let people off. We tried to figure out where we could get off that was closest to our hotels, but the courier couldn't read our maps. So we went all the way to the end of the bus line and were attacked by taxi and moto drivers when we arrived. We shared a taxi back to the general area and the taxi driver dropped me off at my hotel before taking them to Sofitel.

After about 5.5 hours on a bus, a ferry, a van, another bus and a taxi, I had made it back. I was proud of myself. Getting to a foreign country is not the hard part, getting around it is usually more challenging. I think this day was an important travel milestone for me and a step towards future solo travel. The more I travel, the more I realize I like the adventure of figuring things out and not knowing exactly what's going on or where I'm going... "The great affair is to move."
sybil says:
that sounded like a cool adventure. :D
Posted on: Jun 03, 2008
oldschoolbill says:
By George I think you've Got It!!
Posted on: Jun 02, 2008
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Sailboats and seagulls
Sailboats and seagulls
Cat Ba
photo by: ulysses