Day 3 Cat Ba Island 27th March 2004
We got up quite early, and once the motors were started on the boat, we pulled anchor and slowly made our way to Cat Ba Island. We left the boat and climbed onto a small minibus which took us across the island into Cat Ba Town. We were dropped off at the No Boofheads Cafe, where we had a typical Western breakfast of boiled eggs, Lipton tea and toast. Liam had pancakes.
We were quite lucky as there was a large festival on today in Cat Ba Town to celebrate the visit of Ho Chi Min back in 1951, or was it 1953?
We watched the parade assembling with cute little girls, who really liked Liam, guys in the dragons, beautiful young ladies dressed in flowing Cao Dai and the dragon boat racing crews in their bright team colours. After breakfast the parade started amongst a light drizzle of rain.
There there was a magnificent festival on the shore of the bay. There was singing and dance up on the stage with Ho Chi Min forming a huge backdrop. The parade ended in front of the stage, with the school kids dancing in formation eventually making way for men in military uniform dancing with their rifles and men dressed in camouflage fighting and jumping through flaming hoops. I'm sure it was telling a story.
The show came to an end and the attention turned to the dragon boat races. We walked through the town to the fish docks and later through the market.
The ladies in the market thought Liam was very cute, and wanted to sell him many many things! There were lots of amazing things to see at the market, such as dried seahorses used for chinese medicine, and many fruits and vegetables we've never seen before. There was also lots of live fish and other animals, though we kept a reasonable distance from the ducks, as the chicken flu paranoia was still about.
At 1pm we jumped into a minibus which took us down to the docks where we started our boat trip to Monkey island. We scrambled into a small bamboo boat which started taking in water with us 6 big Westerners, Liam and the boat woman. We made it to the larger boat safely without anybody falling in. We had a really fresh and tasty salad lunch on our way to Monkey Island. We sailed past a floating village amnd it was amazing how the people live. 1000 people live in the floating village and another 10,000 live in Cat Ba.
On Monkey Island we were greeted by a small group of monkeys. A few of us climbed up the mountain. The limestone was incredibly sharp, and you would most definitely not want to fall! There were the most beautiful views from the top out Ha Long Bay.
Michelle stayed on the beach and watched the monkeys chase one of the guys, which was an absolute laugh as he ran up and down the beach in terror with this small little monkey running behind him.
Liam got chased by a monkey too, screaming and running up the beach. We caught the boat back the same way and were given free-time from the tour to find our own dinner in Cat Ba. Michelle wasn't game to try one of the Vietnamese Restaurants after visiting the markets this morning so we had dinner at the Dolphin Cafe. This was really nice and we tried a few Vietnamese dishes, and of course had spring rolls. For 130,000 Dong I got a really nice crab curry, Michelle had Beef Noodle Soup and Liam hada a cheeseburger. We were completely stuffed!
After dinner, we dropped into the Internet Cafe on the way back to the hotel were Liam played upstairs with his new friends Wolf and Istera.
The festivals continued well into the night, and we watched them for quite a while from the balcony with lots of colourful lights and people singing and dancing. We went to bed exhausted long before the party ended!