After leaving our Halong Bay cruise we set off on the kilometre or so walk to the jetty and catch the ferry to Gia Luan ferry terminal on Cat Ba island.
We had just missed the 11:30 ferry and the next one was only at 3pm. We could take a fast motor boat but the fare went from VND80k (USD3.5) to VND266k USD11.5) per person. The price was significantly more but it was outweighed by the discomfort of sitting in a windy and chilly waiting area for 3 hours.
We set off in an open speedboat kitted out in life jackets and wrapped up against the wind. We arrived in less than 20 minutes and were met by a taxi driver who seemed pleased to tell us that the next bus was at 4pm! But he’d do the trip for VND115k (USD5) per person – so for the sake of expediency we’d been fleeced again!!
Cat Ba is a large island situated in Lan Ha bay adjacent to Halong Bay. We’d arrived at the northern end about 30 kilometres from the town which is situated on the southern tip.
Depending on how you look at it the town is either eclectic or a mixture of clashing styles. Ranging from bland and uninteresting to quite architectural. Most narrow and tall. Many are virtually sunk into the cliff face.
There is hotel after hotel, hostel after hostel, restaurant after restaurant, travel agent after travel agent. Many offering hire services for motor bikes or scooters.
The peak season which is mainly Vietnamese visitors is in the summer vacation months of June and July. The rest of the year there is mainly western foreigners. This area doesn’t attract many Chinese or Koreans so there are many empty spaces and not much traffic.
We stayed in a simple, spacious room for $12 a night including a simple single course breakfast. It was great value for money. It is a family run business. They are on call day and night and are very obliging.
We returned to the Gia Luan ferry terminal by public bus and slow ferry at more than double the time but at less than half the cost of getting from there.
While in Cat Ba we did some sightseeing and a hike.
Close to town there is a steep walk up to Cannon Fort where you get stunning views of the islands of Lan Ha Bay. The views of sunset must be fantastic but as our days continued to be grey, overcast and cold we had to leave this to our imagination … and other people’s photos!
At Cannon Fort there is a planned walk. You wander through the tunnels and passages that were used in various conflicts with the French and Americans. There is also a very basic museum.
The next day we did the hike across the Cat Ba National Park. We made a booking with Mr Pineapple at the Pineapple Resort. A total of 15 kilometres split into 10 of tough hiking followed by lunch and then an easy 5k from the village to the port. There a ferry to take us back to Cat Ba town.
Not realising that there was such an extensive choice of Halong Bay cruise options we selected the Glory Legend Cruise based on their TripAdvisor rating (and the price we were prepared to pay!)
The tour was 3 days and 2 nights and was a great experience. It included visits to Ti Top Island, Fighting Cocks Islet, Dinh Huong Islet, Soi Sim Island, Cua Van Fishing Village, Me Cung Cave, Bai Tu Long Bay, Surprise Cave
Mandalay has an enchanting sounding name which bears no resemblance to the city.
Like most of Myanmar there is absolutely no consideration for foreign tourists who are targets for exorbitant demands. There are no metered taxis and the taxi app Grab does not work here.
We decided to take the ferry from Bagan to Mandalay. It was a good choice.
Sitting in an air-conditioned cabin on RV Panorama. The sun streaming in the window cruising up the Irrawaddy ... the start of a perfect morning.
It started quite early with a taxi collecting us from the hotel and driving us to the jetty (the taxi transfer included as a bonus in the ticket we bought from Tun Tun’s Forever Travel).
Arriving at the out of town bus terminal in Bagan we were met by a group of taxi drivers making fare offers which were obviously managed by collusion. The demand for “going to town 15 000 Kyat” was ridiculous. I hastily took my phone to contact Grab and get a reasonable fare rate. Another offer “12 000 - 3 people 4 000 Kyat each”.
The Myanmar bus trip from Yangon to Bagan was our first long bus trip in Asia. It was also our first exposure to the size of the Asian bus transport industry.
The main bus station is some distance from down town Yangon so we took a Grab. It was just as well; the bus station covers an area over a few kilometers.
In our trip around the world our first stop in Myanmar was Yangon. Or as many people still call it, Rangoon.
Our flight arrived late in the evening so Ooderoo, the recommended data SIM company had closed. We couldn’t contact Grab so we reluctantly took the "official" airport taxi. It was a bad decision not to get a price from a registered taxi as, like in most cities, the approved airport taxis are a rip off.
After our hectic travels in China and Japan we spent a welcome week visiting Malaysia again. Planning our future travels at an apartment in Petaling Jaya … a place that was starting to feel like home.
There was the realisation that only a short period in any place makes it familiar. Eating street food at places we’d visited before and shopping at familiar shops.
We learned many travel lessons as our trip was planned and we lived it lived day to day using resources mainly from the internet. Supplemented by some second-hand, out of date travel books. With local resources being the hotel we stayed in as well as the city tourist department.
Visiting Japan was an absolute pleasure. For many reasons, we were grateful that we went there after China.
While China is impressive with its massive infrastructural growth in a short period of time. It has not brought the society along at the same rate. You can read about my views of China by clicking here.