Motorbike Tour around Cat Ba
– Woke up to horrible loud construction noises from the building going on right outside our hotel room window. It’s a terrible noise to wake up to at 6:30 am- the sound of jackhammers and metal grinding and workers screaming in Vietnamese.
– Also woke up pretty sore from climbing yesterday- my forearms feel it the most, and also have some bruises on my legs. Also was lucky enough to get bit up all over my ankles and legs by the sandflies at the beach we climbed at. Yayy.
– Met at Le Pont hotel at 7:45 am but they were running a bit behind so we didn’t get on our motorbikes until 8:15
– The motorbikes turned out to be really crappy. Mine didn’t have any side mirrors and to start it I had to hold the right break with my left hand while pushing the on button and twisting the throttle with my right hand. Anytime I took my hand off the throttle, the bike would die.
– Besides me and Tamar there were two other girls, one from Germany and one from Turkey, and two guys, brothers from England. There were two staff members there, Jim, the manager, and Mia, another girl who works at the Le Pont hotel.
– We first went to the Le Pont Clubhouse and got some coffee. It was a bit of a rough start for Tamar who dropped the bike before we even left the hotel (it was her first time riding a motorbike). But she got right back up and made it to the clubhouse in one piece.
– Out next stop was an old Vietnamese base where they used cannons to fire at US planes during the Vietnam War. The ride up there was really beautiful. The fort is the highest point on Cat Ba island so the view from the top is really fantastic.
– We then took a nice long ride through the canyons (which I loved!) to Hospital Cave. It is a massive cave that was converted into a hospital to use for wounded Vietnamese during the war. There were a lot of rooms for things like surgery, a pharmacy, recovery room, patient rooms, offices, a pool (for rehabilitation), and even a large cinema.
– As soon as we got out of the cave we saw that it was pouring rain! We waited across the street at a small rest stop and had tea (trying to wait out the rain) but eventually had to get going because we were on a tight schedule. We all put on plastic rain ponchos and set out in the rain. It was really difficult riding in the rain because the drops would go straight into my face and I kept blinking and squinting my eyes trying to see straight. Not ideal riding conditions but it didn’t rain for that long.
– Eventually the rain ceased and we got to a small privately owned zoo. We walked around and saw a bunch of animals (a bear, porcupines, puppies, deer, wild pigs, and more) and had lunch there. After lunch we saw one of the monkeys that was chained to a tree and found out that he was raised by one of the dogs on the farm so we feels part of the dog family. The zoo owner gave him one of the puppies and the monkey immediately grabbed onto the puppy and held him really tightly. What was really sweet and cute quickly turned into inappropriate as the monkey flipped the dog around and started humping him. Then the monkey grabbed the puppy’s paw and started dragging him all around the tree. It was funny but at the same time scary because it looked like he was going to rip the little dog’s leg right off of him. I got the whole thing on video you can look it up using the link at the end of this entry. Eventually the dog got away but it was definitely one of the weirdest animal interactions I’ve ever seen.
– After the zoo we took a long ride around the island and got to a harbor where we caught a boat to the “Dragon’s Lair Cave.” On the ride there we were all absolutely freezing. I wasn’t expecting it to be so cold that day and I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, had my scarf wrapped around my neck and face, and was still freezing. It’s not a good feeling to be freezing cold on a motorbike and not being able to do anything about it.
– The cave was really cool because it wasn’t touristy at all and it felt like we were exploring an authentic cave (not just a tourist attraction). It wasn’t lit up with weird colored lights like the Cave of Surprises in Halong Bay. It was a really massive cave with lots of little tunnels and caverns inside. We walked around for a little bit and went inside a couple of the small caverns. In one of the small areas Jim showed us the pottery fragments laying around (he says they date back about 400 years).
– We caught the boat back to the harbor and jumped on the motorbikes and went back through the canyons and around the island for 45 minutes to get back to Le Pont hotel before it got dark. Everyone went out for a beer, but I wasn’t in the mood to really socialize or drink and I was feeling drained from the day long outing. I went back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit until Tamar came back and we went to dinner together.
– It was awesome being on the motorbike for hours today and cruising through the canyons. I was the only one able to keep up with Jim on his motorcycle and it definitely made me miss riding my bike at home. Such a great feeling to ride through the canyon roads- so freeing.