Trip to Cat Ba

04/18/09

Today I am writing you from Cat Ba, the biggest isle of an archipelago west of the Ha Long Bay.
It is difficult to tell you about the past when there are already so many new stories from the present. I will try though…

Back to Sa Pa for a moment and instantly I can hear the familiar “buy from meeeeee” – just like in Hanoi. Our hotel is right next to the market place, thus the women are calling at us even through the windows of the breakfast lounge. They show us their gorgeous embroideries – laughing, we shake our heads and they smile back at us and stop for a moment. This happens again and again. They are persistent, but always smiling. And this goes on all of the four days, I have to admit it became a little annoying sometimes…

The whole city is like one big market place, everything exists in huge quantities. Food seems to be the number one priority. There are many people from the villages up in the mountains wearing their embroidered costumes, everybody from the elderly to the youngsters. They offer us beautiful orchids and other exotic flowers in one of the streets, they cook on the pavement in another: (and this sometimes makes me feel quite nauseous) meat skewers, intestines, chickens and many eggs lying on the grill, constantly being turned over. There are always lots of eggs everywhere; in the morning, at noon, in the evening, in the hotel, at the side of the street, on the ship – I can’t stand the sight of them anymore and I admit that at times I long for our bread and potatoes… Most of the time I just eat rice and veggies here, it’s often pretty tasty and I’m starting to handle the chopsticks quite well…

Regarding Sa Pa still: We rented a motorbike for two days and we explored the wonderful surroundings. Time and time again we were greeted by people waving at us, mostly street workers. There isn’t a lot to do on the rice fields at the moment. From time to time you’ll see a man working hard plowing the muddy paddy with his water ox.

Another image that touched us very much: On Easter Saturday there are about 150 little children from the mountain villages sitting merrily in front of the church in their costumes, eating, often barefoot and carrying even smaller children on their backs. Then at night all of them proceeded solemnly into the dark church in front of the grown-ups, candles in their hands, and the beautifully colored windows almost seemed to be glowing warmly in the candle light…

But now quickly back to Hanoi on the frantically shaking soft sleeper train (a ten-hour ride), we take the bus to Hai Phong and get on a boat to the Ha Long Bay right away for two nights. By the way, there aren’t any Germans here, either; everyone speaks English, and often in a very loud and importunate way…

The bay is incredibly beautiful with its many limestone formations. We went kayaking for a whole day and in the evening I had a sore back and my hands hurt but my soul was contented. As there were only the two of us fortunately we were accompanied by a very young man, who only knew three words of English though, but it turned out to be enough.

living on water ...

living on water ...

At noon his mother cooked for us and then after lunch she unfolded a little bast mat on her tiny porch and indicated that it was now time for a nap. So it was then very peaceful on this floating little house. You will find those swimming villages everywhere here, they are small and most of the time painted green or brown and there is always a dog and above all a hammock on the porch.

A very beautiful picture: A young and preppy woman in her cane boat, a little child sitting up in the front. Her cell phone rings, she takes it out of her pocket, talks and keeps on rowing with her foot just as skillfully. This scene touched me…

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

Now I am sitting in a hotel in Cat Ba City, a beautiful bay with many colorful floating houses, fish and pearl farms, in between the many bast boats supplying the swimming villages charged to the top with all the necessary goods.
One more nice picture: Down on the lively intersection, right in the middle of a beautifully arranged flower bed, there is a cock crowing (at 4 p.m.) and it seems to me as if it was a police officer directing the traffic. On his sides there are two ducks, picking away and for a moment it seems as if they were cleaning up the space around the cock…

And now we are looking forward to our motorbike tour across the small, fascinating island. Actually, there is only one road, but many bays, thus we brought our swimming clothes in the backpack…

By the way: 10,000 Viet Nam Dong (VND) are 0.42 €; Jens is busy counting the bills…

Greetings from Cat Ba,

Hanne and Jens

3 Comments

Jeremy Petralba

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