Cat Ba Island – along with the entire population of Hanoi!?

Posted: June 12, 2012 in 2012 Summer - South East Asia, Vietnam

Leaving Hanoi in the morning on the 9.20 train was quite straight forward, Long Bien Station being just the otherside of a very visible 100 year old iron bridge stretching over the Red River. Keeping the bridge in sight and a bit of clever navigation through some narrow back streets, with the usual array colourful clothes drapped everywhere and crappy tourist shops, bought me to the main ticket hall. When I say *main* area try not to picture Paddington or Victoria stations in London, more a humid garage with rows of sticky plastic chairs and sweaty Vietnamese families…

The train was quite comfortable, clean and service was great, although the decor was tired and faded circa 1950 ish. I was very impressed with the toilet… a sit down loo and everything! I have experience some toilet facilities whilst travelling that I can only describe as horrific.

I pulled monkey faces and made duck noises to two children throughout most the trip much to the amusement of the mother and father, who it turns out spoke excellent English. They explained it was the Vietnamese holiday season and that everywhere was going to be very busy… she wasn’t wrong!!

After a rather wasted 2 hour wait trying to find a slower cheaper option to the 6 pound hydrofoil fast ferry, I bought my ticket and boarded. There had been a 2 pound ‘freight’ ferry that left at midday it turns out but am glad I went for the rapid crossing, as it seems the city folk and ferries do not mix well. After an amusing hour of watching sick bags being filled and skin turning green we swung round, slowed down and moored at Cat Ba Town terminal.

The hostel was a 200 metre stroll up the main street away from the harbour, lots of restaurants filled with large groups of hungry/loud Vietnamese 😉

Jim the Australian back packer who has now settled here semi permanently shows me to my room and offers me a bottle of ice cold local 29% vodka called ‘men’, which I promptly decide to call ‘menu’ as I struggle to pronouce ‘men’ as it should be said. It is actually quite a decent tipple that goes down surprisingly well… night night


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