Cat Ba is the largest island in the Bay and approximately half of its area is covered by a National Park, which is home to the highly endangered Cat Ba langur. – Wikitravel.org
Day 4 in Vietnam, and we are pulling up to Cat Ba Island on our boat. The early morning heat is intense and we are instantly greeted by a swarm of locals offering water, cigarettes and snacks. This is a constant menace when you don’t need anything, but useful in the glaring sunshine when you need a drink.
This is our only main point of contact with the Vietnamese – purchasing water and therefore we don’t get a complete picture of what the locals are really like. I know they are curious people. Back in Ha Noi people would stare at us as we strolled through the streets, curious about the westerner in the vest and swim shorts, I guess if I saw a small Vietnamese woman meandering the streets of London in a tall, pointy hat, hoody and balaclava pulled up to the eyes I’d certainly be staring out of curiosity, especially if they were wearing such clothing in the strong summer sunshine. That is one thing that has stood out to all of us – they wear such a lot of clothing in the heat, so to show no skin. We are told that this is because they don’t want to tan, as tanning indicates poverty. How different our countries can be.
After purchasing a bottle of water we stew in the sun for a short period of time whilst we wait for our bus to collect us and take us to the Cat Ba National Park. A stunning, large forest area of trees and hiking territory.
We were not aware of this trip until today, and I certainly did not come prepared. Dressed in a vest, swim shorts, flip flops, and carrying an iPad….I thought we were heading straight to the hotel.
Our guide leads a long line of us from the coach and up to the vast green mounds that lie before us. The air is warm, sweat pouring already and we’ve barely climbed a metre…
Shortly after beginning our trek to the top, we realise that our guide has abandoned us. We are a group of twenty something internationals trying to find our way through the jungle that lays before us. It’s hard to know what to compare it to, but it certainly reminds me of LOST. It’s great how a group of strangers can be thrown together and work together, converse together, and experience together. We eventually navigate the difficult pathways, climbing areas and rusty ladders to make it to the top point of the National Park and a stunning view awaits us. Green in every direction apart from the sky. A photo opportunity for everyone. The only thing spoiling the scenery is the rusty tower with a ‘Don’t Climb’ sign – which of course the majority of people climbed for that extra special view!
The journey down is far more difficult. For one thing the ladders are definitely not designed to climb back down, and secondly, without our guide we find the group split into two as we take different directions – which of us is the ‘others’?
Had I known hiking was on the agenda, I certainly would not be carrying an iPad, or wearing flip flops! I decide to wait for Jack, Sawyer, or Locke to come and rescue us.