08 June 2012

Mystery Meat and Questionable Shots in Halong

After Mai Chau, Zach and I had decided to go to Cat Ba in Halong Bay and piece it together ourselves.  Well…. It did turn out to be interesting and educational.  We get a bus ticket to Halong Bay and decide to stay the night there and check it out.  We told the bus driver we wanted to go to Halong City and he ends up dropping us off on the side of the road right before the bridge (that they drive over) to the city with nothing around except for some motorcycle taxis, I’m thinking “great.  My favorite, obnoxious motorcycle taxi guys harassing us.  Again.  Hm, nothing around except this highway…". We just want to get away from them and we put on our packs and start walking  on the road that goes under the bridge, looking like it went… somewhere.  We figure out that we need to be on the other side of the bridge, so we find a taxi and it drops us off on the correct side of the bridge in the city center.  We walk around and find a guest house to stay in.   The average room is ok, most smell like mildew, and the city is boring and not attractive. 

Following day, we figure out where the ferry is and have to take a taxi there.  We get our tickets to take us to Cat Ba where the gentleman who sold us our ticket said that a bus would be there at some point and could take us into Cat Ba.  Sounds easy enough.  Too easy… 

Since we had about an hour and half to kill, we go get something to eat at a food stand on the other side of the parking lot, which was fairly vacant but this stand had the most locals in it… like 15 people.  We go, ask for a menu (even mime it) and they don’t have one… and they don’t speak any English.  So we point at what we want since it was all pre-made and we're served at our table.  I go for the one that looked tastiest… well, it wasn’t.  I thought it was pork with some sort of sauce, but the texture was wrong, flavor all wrong and I think it may have even been in oyster sauce.  After some consideration, we think it may have been dog.  But of course we’re not positive.  We eat the stuff we do like and can mostly identify and sit back and observe the locals. 

A small group of local guys were smoking tobabacco with a traditional pipe/bong and Zach wanted to try smoking out of it, so he goes over, sits with them and smokes.  Another group of local guys come up to me with a shot of something purple.  Hmmm, I didn’t recognize this shot (nor did they have mixers, this was the color of the liquor) nor did I know what the smell was (not fruity!), but it was bad and completely foreign to me.  I even looked at the bottle to try and identify it but it was a reused bottle of something else.  I didn’t want to insult the guy and his friends, so I decide to take the shot.  Yeah, it tasted bad and still unrecognizeable.  I thank him and tell Zach (since no one there spoke English) that if I was just roofied, then he had to take care of me.  Nothing happened after all, but the shot did give me a tiny buzz which is unusual for one shot for me. 

It's finally time for us to go on the ferry and the views are spectacular in the bay.  Breathtaking really.   Halong is filled with these huge, limestone rocks and cliffs just jutting straight out of the water and covered with vegetation and jungle.  Thousands of large rocks and islands everywhere! 

Once we got into Cat Ba (after a HUGE hassle with the taxis there - won't get into it), we got a sweet room overlooking the bay and checked out the town.  The next day, we rent motorcycles and go get filled up at a little auto stand with a liter of gas.  Gasoline is often sold in used bottled water liters here and are shown on the side of the street that they’re available for passing drivers.  Often, they’re in different colors, I’ve seen green, yellow, clear, purple…  hm, purple.  Zach and I are watching the gas get poured in to my motorcycle and I ask him if he thinks I may have done a shot of gasoline the day before…  He says I might have.  Great.  So I may or may not have done a shot of gasoline. I’m still hoping that it was moonshine or some local homebrewed something or anthers.  Well, at least I'm still alive and everything seems to be functioning properly still.

Best part of Cat Ba was just riding around on the motorcycles and just being in the middle of this gorgeous island filled with jungle, mist and a lack of tourists driving around.  AND it was sort of my first time being on a motorcycle on the street all by myself.  What a great experience.  I’m hooked!!!  I want a motorcycle!!!  I had such a great time riding around with Zach including taking our motorcycles in to the  National Park there where I’m pretty sure that we weren’t supposed to drive them on those trails.  Whatever.  We did and it was fun!  When the trail ended, we were standing in the middle of this jungle in a clearing and it was filled with so many different butterflies, so many different birds just chirping away, cicadas making their weird souped up motorcycle sound and just taking in all the great sounds of the forest there.  It was amazing.  Unforgettable.  

We found this in Cat Ba and it just looked so Pirates of the Caribbean

Washed up boat that looked like someone lived in it
Halong, notorious for overcast and often bad weather

I love seeing the juxtaposition of these two boats.  One purchased, one homemade.  Both work.

Seems like the best way to dry your clothes to me.

A macro shot of a tiny fish washed up on the shore

And another macro shot of a tiny seashell on the beach


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