(Note: The original post is written on my old blog on January 16th, 2010 https://summerlilybee.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/a-journey-to-the-past-thors-day/ )
It was only late at night when we made a decision to go to the Catba Island using public transportation (instead of our hotel’s tour package). As advised by our bible, we can buy 1 ticket to the Catba Island which includes bus-boat-bus travel. At first I felt reluctant with the choice *please don’t blame me*. I imagined our-beloved-country public bus & boat. Not to mention unknown (I’m not talking about positive, surprising event) thing we might discover during the trip. Anyhow, that was the best choice we ever made. Thanks for Mr. S for his sturdy desire (perhaps he got that exploring & challenging sense from hours flying around the world) for making that happen. But yes, we asked several travel agents the possibility of using the public transport, before we were convinced about it.
At 9 we went to the Hoang Long office, where we can buy the ticket (also the journey where the taxi driver showed up his wayward *or perhaps talent*: make a U-turn in the middle of the intersection, where motorcycle & another car were coming from various directions, Voila!). There we proved what the travel agent guy said, “people out there can’t speak English”, me & Mr. P released our best to communicate with them. We just wanted to make sure, that the 1 piece of ticket includes the bus-boat-bus trip without any additional ticket. But it wasn’t that simple; Mr. P and I even draw a bus and a boat to ensure the guys out there understand what we meant. Anyhow, we ended up making ourselves sure, that it included all the transportation means 😀.
From there, we went straight away to the bus station and saw our bus (Thanks God, the bus looked nice ). We were scheduled to board at 11:20, but we were called to get in by 11. The bus went on around 11:05, and there were several non-asian tourist, that somehow made me relief, “OK, there are another tourist taking the same choice”. The bus was full with both tourists and local people. We traveled for about 2 hour to the Haiphong City, to change the Bus (we had to wait for about 1 hour to go to the harbor).
Funny things happened (funny, or annoying, you name it). We were so starvvvinggg…and decided to stop by in the nearest restaurant. There was a fancy restaurant, with its supervisor wore a coast, neat one. Each one of us ordered meals, and as usual, I ordered vegetarian fried rice. Like several events before *no more surprise*, the waitress served a fried rice with pork slices on it *cried inside*. Well, that wasn’t my lucky afternoon, and we had no more time to order the correct food. So Mr. S and Mr. P helped me eaten up the fried rice *should I be thankful?*
It was about time at 2 pm when another bus came by to pick us all to the harbor. Several tourists from another bus apparently had come during the time we took lunch. The bus took us to the harbor, where we used a ferry to cross over (around 45 minutes) to the Catba Island. Not quite a view I could say, the ferry window was blur, I couldn’t see outside clearly, and as obvious I looked, nothing special about the view outside. So I spent my time chatting to kill time.
Catba island harbor wasn’t a view as well. As we arrived in Catba’s harbor, another bus took us away to the other side (catba city) of the island. Along the way, the view was beautiful, with green chronic hill spread out on the landscape. It brings me the view of a lonely island in the country of nowhere from “King Kong”, or even the strange island in the end chapter of “Deep Rising”. Shortly, I felt quite blown away in the island of fantasy. The road itself was zigzag, descent and declined. The more we approached to the city, more local housing stood up, school, market, and finally the bus took us to the main street, where broad paved road are spread right beside the small harbor. The left side of the road was full with hotel, store and restaurant/bar/café, and on the right side was the ocean welcoming us to the free ocean. Welcome to the Catba city…
There we took a 10 minutes’ walk to our Hotel, Catba Island Resort and Spa, where another surprise waited for us. We took an upward stroke towards the Hotel and it wasn’t that easy with my luggage (thanks again to Mr. S & Mr. P ^^). The Hotel was FUN-TASTIC, and I really mean it. It stood up in a top plain, with its down plain are a mesmerizing view of pool park, eccentric restaurant building, wriggling glide of the water park, and direct view to the sea, where boat were sailing and anchoring, and it was nothing without the embellishment of the stony testimony sprout out by the green plant flanked the hotel area as if it was a secret, exclusive area for those who only deserve it (please forgive my little exaggerationJ). If I was alone, I would certainly scream uncontrollably, mesmerized by the view. The room itself was awesome, sea view room with many compliments served for us. Mr. S quickly grabbed a piece of dragon fruit, something fresh he always craving for during our travelJ, not to mention a fancy bathroom with quite a design. What a luxury…
And yes, it was 6 hour before the year 2010. The hotel offered us an entrance ticket for a new year’s party held by the hotel for $6/pax. We took it for the sake of delicate buffet (as it was shown from the menu list) and a live music for celebrating New Year.
The party started at 9, so we walked around the sidewalk to take a picture & enjoy the view. The catchy thing about the city was the half-circle mast inscribed with “welcome to Catba”, located right in the middle of the city harbor. It was bluish fluorescent that embellish its stood during the evening.
Along the street, local merchant offered pearl jeweler, animal-shaped-like statue made from shellfish, and many other merchandise. We also stopped by the tourism agent, arranging our trip to the Halong Bay for the next day.
We took a 1-day trip to Halong Bay, includes the kayak session in one or two area around it, and lunch at the boat. The tour biro was a good one, the owner speaks English easily, show some options and photos, make us easier to make decision.
Photo session, Check! Halong Bay trip itinerary, Check! Dinner for vegetarian, Check! Party is on !! We went back to the hotel, and waited until 9:30, rushed to the party. Things weren’t exactly as I expected. The wind blew very strong and cold, especially when our hotel located right next to the ocean free. I trembled as I walked to the party area: an open air spot with small stage where Philippines singer sang a stomping song. I remember, that I could not focus on anything but trembling inside my double jacket and wonder how the singer (2 girls wore a sleeveless shirt with a very short skirt) survived the weather. Weren’t they told the weather in the Catba was freaking freezing? Anyway, I’m amazed not by their performance but their mass strength against the freezing wind.
I enjoyed some desert anyhow, with delicious salad and the calming French fries (hot French fries was never felt that way before, yummm), my two buddy seems okay with the wind blows, they eat some huge meal (from their expression, I think they pretty enjoyed the dinner, I think the food carried them away from the weather). Around us are 5 tables of 5 up to 10, only 1 table (if I’m not mistaken) was occupied by non-Asian tourist couple. And there was a table full with local people toasting their glasses, yelled something in Vietnamese I didn’t catch. As I luxuriated my own tremble and salad (what a combination) while keep wondering how the Philippines did survive, I ensured myself it wasn’t too long for me to stay there anymore. And I excused myself to go inside (it also happened that I need to get a drink in the room, the buffet did not include the drink, holla!). As I left the party area, a soft drizzle touched my skin, and a minutes after that I heard indistinctly the MC said that the dinner will be closed soon due to the weather). What a weird New Year dinner party. It was 22:30 pm…