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Chilling in Cat-Ba – Snowball In The Sahara

Welcome back to our Vietnamese adventure. We have had a week on the beautiful island of Cat Ba and had a combination of relaxing beach days and island tours. Here are a couple of experiences in more detail. We hope you enjoy following our family tour.

Riding as a local. When in Vietnam, you will, like most Asian countries, see families, dogs, pianos and everything you can imagine loaded onto a single moped. Although it may look like anarchy it is surprisingly safe. The only issues seem to occur with tourists not fitting in with the dance of madness on the roads. Surprisingly road rage doesn’t exist here. You may hear horns beeping every other second when your trying to navigate through the town, or even somehow when your alone on a mountain top but it’s not the start of a stand off or people wanting to exchange words. We have come to experience that it’s merely an indication that someone is near you or they want to say xin Chao (hello). The Vietnamese people have a beautifully kind nature and if the police were to ever be involved then everyone pays money, so it’s avoided at all costs, even if that means being nice, a crazy concept for us western drivers.

To be, or not to be a local? Being the social chameleon that I am and Daniella the world hippie that she is, we were always going to do as the locals do. This doesn’t mean we would compromise our daughter’s safety, however it may look in photos. Until you join in you can’t get a true understanding of how safe it actually feels here. The only issue that we had was that Prevelly hasn’t inherited her father’s massive head and we couldn’t find a helmet to fit. So we strapped her to Daniella in the baby carrier and squashed her between the two of us.

We set off from the town and headed into the Centre of the island towards the national park. She was so happy and enjoyed every moment on the bike. It got to a point where she felt so relaxed that a nap was in order as we passed through the small villages on route. The only issue came when she wanted to stand up on the bike to see more. Controlled by Daniella and the distraction of dogs joining in on the traffic we rode up through the countryside and hit a long stretch before making it to the national park. We stopped for some food opposite in an ‘eco grounds’, we’re still not sure what it actually was but we managed to stumble across a flock of chicks. Prevelly had found her new friends for the day and was so close to catching one herself. We were quite glad she didn’t as she already has a mean throw on her. After a nice local rice meal it was time to carry on.

We took the coastal drive back to the town and weaved along the mountain terrain with the busses and other bikes. Passing through the main town as school kicks out was quite an experience. Bikes loaded with children coming from every direction. Prevelly pulled out her regal wave as we said hello to everyone on our way back in to Cat Ba town.

After an amazing day out we even contemplated buying a bike to do the tour down the country to Ho Chi Minh. If it wasn’t for amount of pressure put on Daniella’s bum due to holding Prevelly we would have bought one then and there. With most locations across the country requiring some mode of transport to go site seeing we will definitely be spending a lot more time on a moped. For anyone in a position to try this who has reservations I would strongly recommend giving it a go. For just £3 it was a whole day of fun and a great new experience. For the sake of Prevelly’s grandparents we have held back any photos that may convey the activity as too unsafe.

Ha Long boat tour. For anyone visiting Hanoi this is a must. We looked at booking this tour whilst in the capital but was advised to wait until we were got to cat ba. It paid off as a day tour here cost us approximately £20 for the family which worked out around half the price. For anyone visiting this part of Vietnam go to Santorini home stay to book anything, get anything or just to join the them for a traditional family hot pot dinner, they are beyond helpful.

So we take a small bus ride to the harbor, aboard our boat and set sail. The owner of the boat was kind and accommodating. The workers resembled characters from pirates of the Caribbean and spoke fantastically bad English. As far as we could tell there are a three different types of boats that tour the bay, the party boat, the Chinese boats and our chosen boat which was a good size, approximately 20, with like minded tourists. It took a while but once we were deep in the Vietnamese Archipelago everyone relaxed and started to mingle.

Prevelly helped by walking among the group and finding the people who looked most fun. She then had a little dance and explored what life is like at sea.

Our first stop was to a floating fish market. Quite literally a market selling fish in the middle of the sea. After taking in what it must have been like to live in the film Water world we had an hour in a kayak to take in the views at a closer range. Apprehensive to take Prevelly without a life jacket that fit we thought back to our previous day cruising through the mountains on a moped. All three of us in, we paddled around, through and nearly into the beautiful islands that surround the market place. Absolutely stunning scenery with every turn we take. As we float through a cave entrance we are met with such a peaceful environment, with only Prevelly’s “wooooh” to be heard. A gentle paddle back and we are on the boat for a spot of lunch and setting sail to monkey island.

For those who don’t know I had an awful experience in Bali where I accidentally punched a monkey in the face. It caused a few issues within the monkey community and I’m pretty sure my face is still on their wanted list. With that being said, I manned up for my daughter’s sake and we ventured onto the island. First monkey seen within 5 seconds and the adrenaline kicks in. I make a shore line walk, pretty much knee deep all the way to the start of the climb up the notorious mountain to take in the views. Pre warned that the climb was tough we knew that Prevelly could be the weak link in making the summit. With that being said she surprised everyone that we passed on the way up and made it to within a stones throw to the top. Daniellas solid hip carrying technique paid off with the occasional passing of our daughter up the steeper rocks, we all made it to a beautiful spot. I carried on climbing the spiky rock face to have a quick look over the Bay as Prevelly found her throne carved into a rock and waved at all that worked their way up and down the mountain. When I say mountain I may be painting an out of proportion picture. More of a very steep Rocky hill but not an easy climb. The island Cafe was a nice spot to have some fresh pineapple and wait for the boat to pick us up. Apart from a monkey chasing Daniella for the remaining fruit she had the whole experience went down without any issues between us and the monkey community.

We anchored on the way back to give everyone a chance to jump ship and have a swim. With life jackets on we floated next to each other and Daniella acted as Prevelly’s boat as we swam to a close by bay. With sun, sand and sea in her blood, Prevelly splashed around and welcomed the chance to take her first swim of the day. A short journey back to the harbor and the day was complete. There is an option to take a boat cruise that rolls over to the next day but after speaking to our fellow shipmates there isn’t anything else included except sleeping on the boat. Like everything we’ve experienced so far with having a one year old in the group is that everything is still possible and in some ways more exciting. Luckily Prevelly is eating the local food but we still carried a few pouches of baby food in case. The pram is still winning the traveling accessory award as we put her to sleep on the top deck for a few hours in the middle of the day. For anyone who is a little more safety conscious, a life jacket could be a good purchase prior to the trip as they don’t seem to have them small enough for a toddler.


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