Day 22 – Ho Chi Minh City
I find myself in a strange place writing this.. The Samsung office in the largest building in Ho Chi Minh. I met with my friend Thuc from back in Minnesota and he took me here to show me around and get some work done. Feels pretty good to be back behind a desk but the fluorescent lighting isn’t missed. Finished the motorbike ride last night after a harrowing journey into the city. I have to say that overall I am relieved that it is all over. One of the greatest adventures of my life without a doubt but finishing with the minor accidents and no police encounters is a god damn miracle. I am ready to leave Vietnam but I won’t forget it anytime soon.
Day 5 – Travel to Cat Ba Island
After an abysmal night in Ha Long, I got an early start to clear my head and get out of the awful hosteling situation I found myself in. The day started better than anticipated with a $1.00 moto to the docks. I hopped on the ferry that would take me to Cat Ba Island but beyond that, I didn’t have much of a plan. After a two-hour ferry ride, I arrived at the island around 10:30 in the morning. The ferry across was only $4 and once I arrived I had a $12 dollar taxi ride. Not bad, considering I was told I would be spending $40 and the voyage over would take me all day. The ride to my hostel blew me away as I went through what looked like Jurassic Park, fog laid mountains and cool rain soaked through my camera lens. I felt as if this was a baptism for my trip, the first time I really felt that it had been worth it.
After arriving at my hostel and checking in, I found myself walking 2 km to the town to grab some lunch. It was heaven. Fresh fish and petrol filled the air and I was reminded of a town from my childhood. Cat Ba is a sea town filled with fisherman and tourists trying to get a hint of relaxation, which is exactly what I needed: out of the claustrophobic streets of Hanoi but familiar enough to not feel completely alone in a country full of people. At lunch I met a group of other travelers from all over, three from Australia, two from France, one from the UK, another from India and the Netherlands. We shot the shit and they invited me to motorbike to the Green Ladder, a hidden attraction on the island that led to stellar views. I rented a bike for $3 and off I went, following a group of strangers through the jungle on a bike that didn’t even require a name in exchange for the keys. Halfway through our journey we stopped to rest and one of the travelers, who goes by the name butterfly in German, said that if we walked a short bit we would meet three women who live in a small house and are always doing karaoke. Interest peaked, we followed him over a long and rickety bridge to a small hut tucked in the corner of a lake. The women were not around but we decided to stay and hangout anyway, with most of the group settling in with cigarettes and weed. Soon enough we got to chatting about all the things that were different and similar from our hometowns and what life was like a mere eight thousand miles away. It was nice. I had the fluttering feeling of friendship, something I felt as though I haven’t had in months but really hasn’t even been a week yet. Afterwards, we continued onto the Green Ladder and climbed to spectacular views. I’m taking it easy tonight, ending with a full belly and a very good day in the books.