We heard the north has some of the most scenic rides in the world and we were by no means disappointed. We started our ‘Northern tour’ by going to Cat Ba Island in the famous Halong Bay. The bay is unique because of the thousands of limestone karsts jutting out of the water. We took the ferry to Cat Ba and spent one day hiking through the national park and the next kayaking around a small part of the bay. The next day we raced around the island looking for the local ferry to Halong City on the mainland. We just made it and for $2.50 it was the perfect way to see the bay on slow, nearly empty ferry.
We took two days to get to our next destination, Cao Bang. Really the only notable thing that happened in this time was we ate a bowl of pho with some mystery meat in it. At the time I was thinking it was goat but as the days passed and we started seeing dogs being bbq’d on the sidewalk and restaurants with stock photos of lassie on them we put two and two together and realized we had probably eaten dog. Eeek!
Cao Bang is a pretty insignificant town but we stayed two days to see some of the nearby attractions. The first day we rode to Pac Bo caves where Ho Chi Minh hid out during part of his exile from Vietnam. This was right on the border between China and Vietnam so we got to ‘sneak’ into China for a few minutes! We had planned on seeing more sights that day but opted to just ride our bikes around the smooth mountain roads.
The next day we went to Ban Gioc waterfall and a nearby cave. Although it was still dry season the waterfalls were beautiful and we were able to swim in them without being washed away. The waterfall and river divides China and Vietnam so Jesse managed to swim to China and become a minor Chinese celebrity before swimming back. More people were taking photos of (and with) him than snapping shots of the falls! The caves were equally impressive and our favourite caves so far- and that’s saying something since we’ve been to A LOT of caves on this trip. These were impressive because of their sheer size and the fact that we were alone to walk through the kilometre + cave.