Wednesday, January 14

Day 136-Cat Ba Town

After the success of my packaged tour to Sa Pa, I decided to continue the trend and book a 3 day 2 night visit to the UNESCO listed Halong Bay, a scattering of 3000 limestone islands jutting out of the still waters of the South China Sea, off the coast of Northeastern Vietnam. The tourist travel system here is an amazingly complex network of agencies, guides, transport and accommodations, and it seem to work flawlessly, as I am passed from one person to another, enjoying the assigned activities and merely doing what I am told. For a mere $30 or so a day, I am shuttled, entertained, fed and housed, and because I am sure I could not do better as an independent traveler, I accept my role as tourist.

After a morning of bus riding across the country, we arrived at the bay, and boarded a modified chinese junk, complete with kitchen, dining room and simple cabins. We enjoyed an afternoon of cruising among the 200 meter high limestone pillars, stopping once or twice to visit one of the many caves so common in the karst landscape, later boarding kayaks, to glide into the setting sun over the placid waters. The night was spent bobbing about a tranquil bay with a score of other boats, their running light reflecting off the still waters until the full moon rose to wash the entire scene in a pale glow.

The delicate beauty continued to unfold before us the next day as we landed on Cat Ba Island, drove into the interior and huffed and puffed our way 300 meters up a nearby peak. Our activities finished for the day, we settled in Cat Ba town, once a sleepy fishing village, now a burgeoning destination for summertime Vietnamese vacationers. The adjoining bay is abuzz with all manner of floating transports, from steel hulled cargo ships to the most humble tub of woven mat dressed with pine pitch. An entire village of multicolored floating houses, shops and holding tanks is moored in the shallows, and I spend the twilight watching the activity settle with the fading light. Once again I am made aware that the majority of this worlds people are living a life dramatically simpler than my own. I retire to my room at the 3 star hotel, enjoy a warm bath and a spot of telly before settling into my cozy bed. Life is Sweet.

1 comment:

velvethammer27 said...

My dear little brother,

I think where you are now, it is your birthday... so, happy birthday !!

If you and shaggy find each other before the month is out (as is the plan), have a drink on me to your birthday and shaggy's.