We came to Cat Ba Island for a little relaxation after all our arduous travelling (no sympathy for us I know!), and to our slight dismay we found a beach-front reminiscent of Blackpool.. including the rain! It wasn't actually as busy or built up as the hen-night haven, but it did have the typical neon, flashing lights, tacky trinket sellers and an abundance of karaoke bars. So much for lounging around on the sand topping up our fading tans!
As we lunched by the pier a friendly English couple, (Another Andy and Nicola), told us about a boat trip around the island they wanted to go on, and the more people they enrolled the cheaper it would be! Perfect! We had already planned to do a tour of the islands and these two fellow travellers had done all the leg work for us. We met up later to seal the deal with some other keen parties and then went off to celebrate with dinner and a game of 'Extreme Uno'. It turned out that (new) Andy went to Loughborough Uni too, so we had a good old laugh about Echo's, Pulse, Far Pav, FND, The Purple Onion, Nasty, Faraday.. oh, sorry am I boring you? We did the same to Nicola who had no idea what we were talking about.
So, there was ten of us in total setting off on an adventure into the mysterious waterways, and what a wonderful sight! Hundreds of jagged, elongated rocks just randomly positioned, all odd shapes and sizes, almost like they were just perched on top of the water. We spotted a bunny-shaped one, a dog-shaped one, a sausage-shaped one, and even a giant dinasour one... but I was the only one to see that unfortunately! Away from all the tourist ships it was so serene and beautiful, we floated past quiet fishing villages where people have made homes on a few planks of wood. Most had a seafaring mutt to keep them company who would race up and down there limited playground, barking to keep us at bay.
We were allowed to use the kayaks all day and the captain stopped off at several interesting points to explore nearby caves and crevices. The water was relatively clear and shallow in places, rather disconcerting when you go through a dark cave and get stuck to a rock. Floating through these dim tunnels, not knowing when you are going to emerge caused raucous excitement, Andy and I nearly got our heads decapitated on a low lying, clam-encrysted, stalactite, and i'm pretty sure some naughty bats pooped on us!
Once the sunlight streamed through the cave we became aware of the bizarre yellowy-purpley-rocky-roof, space-like with its chinks and formations. We all followed each other through one small hole with a very tight turning curve, which led us into this secluded blue lagoon. As we marvelled at the surrounding landscape with soaring eagles above us we wondered which way the current was flowing, and then imagined being on 999 Rescue as the tide blocked us in this desolate place with birds feasting on us. I don't think they call 999 in Vietnam though! Trying to navigate back round that L-shaped bend in long banana boats as the water was gushing the other way was somewhat...hilarious. If those kayaks could bruise they'd have been scarred black and blue from all the rock collisions. Firstly everyone took it in turns to try, laughing at the attempts and presuming it can't be that hard! As time was ticking we just piled in like bumper cars and staged a survival of the fittest. The last two stuck had us as an audience chuckling and whooping... which didn't help at all. One of the guys couldn't quite grasp the steering and kept frantically paddling right which unfortunately led them into a lefterly direction, and straight into the rock. We decided to just leave them there to keep the eagles at bay! Only joking!
Some of us braved the jelly fish and took a dip in the cool waters, the jellies are huge here, much bigger than Andy's head, and probably containing more brains! ha! (Not really Andrew). We saw one fisherman scoop one up in his net and when we waved at him he put it up to his mouth to motion 'dinner'... eugh... jellyfish soup! They will certaintly eat anything here. Our arms soon turned to jelly aswell after a few hours of paddling, which wasn't helped by getting lost in the similar looking karsts. When we eventually found our boat again the crew tied us to the back and we were thankfully allowed to justle along behind and admire the view without doing a workout.
To round off our exciting and exhausting day we all met up later for a beer, and at 15p per pint of the local tipple were soon searching for a bit of karaoke.