Cat Ba Town on Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Town harbor from my hotel
Hanoi traffic from my perch at the City View Cafe
View from breakfast room at the Amazing Hotel, Hanoi
Another view from the breakfast room
All went well as far as the Haiphong docks, but then my Mai Linh cab was met by these 2 ladies who misrepresented themselves as the official sellers of the Cat Ba Tourist jetboat tickets @ 300,000VND one-way!!!!! I did think this an outrageous price, but I guess my guard was down, because that's the price I paid. After ca fe and a cake, I looked at the ticket and guess what - 120,000VND was clearly stamped on it. I then confronted the ticket sellers and asked for an explanation - "oh, but that includes the jetboat + 2 bus rides". Still sounded a tad fishy, and I voiced my displeasure. An Aussie couple then showed up, and I warned them about the fishy prices. They then asked the ticket sellers for an explanation, and when no reasonable answer was given, they decided to walk down the dock and see what other boats were headed to Cat Ba. They soon came back, and said they bought tickets on a slow boat for only 80,000VND. As it turned out, as I was sitting on the bus for the ride to the jetboat dock, one of the ticket sellers came up to me and gave me 150,000VND??? What's going on here??? She just said something about my complaint, and left.
I finally made it out to the island and Cat Ba Town after one bus ride from hell on the Haiphong side, one fast but wet jetboat ride, and a rather interesting bus ride from the west side of the island to the southern tip at Cat Ba Town. I walked around town for 30 minutes dodging hotel offers, and was somewhat unimpressed with the lodging scene that I saw for flashpackers. Then I walked into the Huong Cang Hotel on the waterfront, and settled on a simple but cheerful room for the sum of $8. (could have been $6., but I thought I'd better get AC just in case). Cat Ba Town was sad - looked like a town in dire distress (damn few tourists on the street or in the hotels or restaurants). I asked for 2 nights, but then revised this plan and thought - " my God, I'll have trouble lasting 24 hours in this place". I did find a decent evening meal, and at least it was cool and breezy on the island.
Next morning, I had my pho bo with ca fe and watermelon juice, and headed back to the hotel to settle the bill. I thought, well, what else can go wrong, I'll just head back to Hanoi, and just forget Cat Ba ever happened. The desk clerk could not find my passport - she looked in several drawers and cabinets, and this went on for a good 10-15 minutes. Naturally, by the time she located the document, I was fuming!!! I grabbed the passport, and raced upstairs to get my things, and when I returned, I threw the damn key at the unoccupied desk. The owner and desk clerk ran out to the lobby and started giving me the business, but I was furious, and promised them I'd tell the world to avoid their establishment at all cost!
The return trip to Hanoi was quite pleasant (and that bus-jetboat-bus trip only cost 120,000VND this time), and I actually walked about 2 miles from the Hanoi bus station to the Hoan Kiem District. Stopped at the Tamarind Cafe for museli, tropical fruit and yogurt and ca fe sua da (iced). Then on to the Old Quarter, where I looked at a few lodgings before settling on a new place - the Hanoi Amazing Hotel - because it was so cheerful, friendly and just plain nice @ $20. for the first night, and $25. the remaining 2 nights for a balcony room. Enough of my rambling for one day.