First impressions of Cat Ba

Hmm, not good. We are in the middle of Ha Long bay and it doesn't feel like a "rock wonder in the sky". One of the reasons for this is because it is misty and cloudy. The other is because we are in Cat Ba Town, not on a junk in the open waters. We have come here to be in the thick of it and at the same time escape from the crowds doing the "normal" tour from Halong Bay city. There are dozens of hotels but it feels like each only has one room occupied - there are very few tourists around. We are getting hassled my motorbike taxis and shop owners in ways we haven't seen since Cambodia.

We have some sort of fair going on. Not quite sure about what it is - there seem to be Cat Ba tourist stands, but virtually all the visitors are locals. There is a speaker blaring out something in Vietnamese at machine-gun speed, it feels like an experiment in hypnotising or brainwashing you into buying stuff.

Apart from the town being pretty ugly (even uglier when you contrast it with the lovely green mountain backdrop) and the food not being anywhere near as good as Hanoi, or even Scunthorpe, the decision still looks good. Tomorrow it may be a bit sunnier. We have booked at a reputable agency. What can go wrong?

The ride in was interesting. Halfway through Aisha, asleep, had a wee all over the bus seat and down the aisle. She didn't even wake up. I joined the conductor in towelling down the floor a bit but soon after we changed bus so all was well. Then on the third bus she nearly vomited but kept it in like a trooper.

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