Samstag, 2. Juni 2012

Wasted on Cát Bà

Cát Bà
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay is situated between the Vietnamese mainland in the north and the Cat Ba Island in its south. The bay is a collection of limestone karsts that tower up to 100 meter above the green water. But who needs to be told of this or the fact that translated the name means "Descending Dragon Bay"? The place is world famous, many details are widely know and the pictures are iconic.

Staying in Hanoi it was an obvious step to pay this place a visit, as it is just a short bus ride away. I arrived in Cat Ba around noon. The heavy rain had just stopped as I walked down the line of harbor front hotels that were either above my budget or full. Walking away from the places with sea view a woman on a motorbike stopped me. Her sister had called her from one of the hotels. She had a room for ten dollar to offer. The place was great. Big, clean and with aircon. She and her family were friendly and busy cleaning the house after a five day long rain that had driven my predecessor off the island.

Sitting on the moped, the sun in my back soon disappeared. Dark clouds and showers of heavy rain swept over me. I followed the advise of one of the national park employees to skip the walk through the hills as the paths were in a horrible condition. "Too slippery!" Even on the island's decent roads the rain had conjured 30 centimeter deep pools of water. But when I crossed Cat Ba and reached its northern shore it was dry for some minutes and I could get a glimpse of the legendary Halong Bay, even though it was still a clouded one. The ride back could have been spectacular, but my view was again obscured by the continuous pouring. Last time I was so soaked was Songkran in Bangkok, and if I recall it correctly, that was the last time I had been freezing, too.

It was a saturday and at night the streets were crowded by Vietnamese tourists. Small children cruised around in blinking electric cars and crashed into one another. Parents followed them laughingly, and in case of the very young ones they steered the blinking vehicle with a remote control. Other kids fished plastic fish out of plastic water basins. The roads were blocked for cars and scooter. Instead the town was populated by hundreds of tandem-bicycles with two to four laughing riders.

The next morning started with rain. But our randomly assembled crew was lucky. The sun soon came out and lightened the scenery. There we were, on the deck of our slow wooden cruiser under the shade of a flopping white sheet and the bay all around us. But it was the company, that was truly remarkable. There were two Korean girls that spoke excellent English. An young English-Australian couple that had cycled all through India and other vast parts of the world. A South-African-Newzealand couple that runs a berry farm on the north island. 

He had done some remarkable trips all over the world. 30 years ago he backpacked all the way from Bangladesh to Turkey. I recall him talking about being in Pakistan, where the men were separated from the women in public busses. Raising his Newzealandish accented voice he said: "And there came this guys pressing them hard ons on us. I shouted at them 'beggar off!" Oh, they are so separated from women. They really fuck everything else! Themselves, animals, but no women. Me and me mate were happy when we reached Turkey. Now that was a decent country again! Where people drink beer and girls and boys hold hands!"

When we arrived back in town it was raining again. I went for dinner and drinks with three French that had been on the cruise too. We got horribly wasted. Later me and one of them walked over to the last open street vendor. Pierre hat the marvelous idea that everyone should sing a song. He started with a French one, I sang a German one and after some of Pierre's insisting, the shy girls sang one as well. We did this several rounds. Then Pierre taught us all a dance which he had learned in summer camp. We laughed a lot and when the bar, the giggling girls ands the chairs were finally gone, he insisted to have a last beer with me on the pier. I agreed only to let him sit there by himself soon and stumbled home.

It was some effort to catch the one o'clock bus to Hué the next morning.

Cát Bà
© Eike-Christian Heine
In Halong Bay there are hundreds of floating fishfarms
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Back to Cát Bà
© Eike-Christian Heine


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