The first thing we did yesterday was check out of our hotel. We decided to switch to another hotel that has good reviews online. Our new room has a nice view of the harbor and is only $12 per night! As we were checking in the guy at the desk asked if we wanted to attend a show that evening to celebrate the anniversary of Ho Chi Minh visiting the island. I got the impression he was obligated to bring a certain number of guests, including foreigners. We figured it couldn’t hurt to say ‘yes’.
We decided to rent a couple bikes so we could get out of Cat Ba town a little. We checked out the nearby beach, which was empty since it wasn’t very warm out. We also rode out of town a short way, but the road was bumpy and hilly so before long we turned back to town to get lunch at a yummy vegetarian restaurant.
After lunch we noticed a bunch of locals lined up along the harbor. We figured out that there was going to be a boat race and so we stuck around to watch the fun. It turned out to be a race of dragon boats and we enjoyed watching the teams compete, as did the locals. Some folks really got into cheering for their favorite team, I just wish I knew more about where the teams were from. We weren’t sure if they were all locals or if some were regional or national teams.
After the race we rested up a bit before heading out for the evening’s big show. We walked over with the family who own the hotel and a few other guests who were going as well. Apparently the show was televised across the country and the cameras made sure to focus on the white faces in the crowd a few times. I got the impression it was all patriotic propaganda aimed at making the ruling political party look good. Hopefully we don’t end up on a state department watch list by attending, but it was an interesting experience.
Today we rented a scooter so we could go all the way to the other end of the island. We went on a different road from yesterday and the scenery was much nicer. We stopped at Cat Ba National Park for a short hike to a high point to enjoy the view. The jagged limestone hills on the island are very scenic and covered in lush green forest. It was a hot and humid hike, but the scenery made it worthwhile.
The entire time we hiked we heard constant noises from birds and insects in the trees around us. We saw some colorful butterflies on our hike and they also had some monkeys caged up for some reason. They might have been rescued monkeys who otherwise might not have survived in the wild, but they seemed a little lonely and in need of more social interaction.
Back on the scooter we reached the other end of the island before turning around. We had barely gone a few kilometers back to town when our scooter died. We couldn’t get it started again so we had to call the guy we rented it from. He couldn’t get it running either so, get this, he pushed our scooter all the way back to town with his foot! Caroline rode with him on his scooter and I sat on our scooter while the guy used his foot (in sandals, of course) to push on one of our scooter’s footpegs. It was nerve-wracking to hold my scooter straight, especially as we struggled up hills, but we made it back just fine. After that adventure we ended the day with a relaxing, but cheap, massage down the street. We’re leaving Cat Ba tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to returning some day.