Arriving into Hanoi late at night has to be the best way to do it. The streets are bustling with activity. The traffic is crazy. Hundreds of motorbikes, scooters and taxis speeding in every direction. They do not stop for pedestrians on the road. There are lights lining the pavements beside the lake with a few street musicians and plenty more street markets. After a long bus ride the energetic atmosphere was infectious and it was a great place to arrive in.
However, neither Mark or I wanted to hang out in a city for Christmas, and although the weather did not look promising we decided to risk it and headed to the island of Catba, of the north coast of Vietnam. It was worth the risk.
After another 5 hour journey, a bus, a boat and another bus we arrived at midday on the 23rd December. It was not warm, but it was not raining and after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we hired scooters and were on our way to the Butterfly crag for an afternoon of climbing. True to it’s name I saw many a butterfly there and set in the hollow of the surrounding mountains it was a perfect way to spend the day.
We were greeted with beautiful blue skies on Christmas Eve so after a hearty breakfast we decided to head back to the Butterfly Crag, and we climbed some beautiful routes. By mid afternoon it was too hot and humid to climb, and my fingertips were falling apart, so we headed to the beach. It was stunning. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, chilling and reading before catching the sun go down over the harbour.
I found out recently that many Europeans celebrate Christmas not on the 25th, like the UK, but on the 24th. To this end, our hotel owner hosted all his European guests for a free Christmas dinner and plenty of free beer in the evening. We had a great time and continued the party playing pool in the bar and then dancing until the early hours at another hostel.
It was a brilliant Christmas celebration full of interesting people. We met a cycle tourer, Theo, and a motorbike tourer, Shane, who we then took climbing on Christmas Day. Everybody felt a little worse for wear and it was raining, but that didn’t dampen the Christmas Cheer and we had a great day climbing. I don’t think I will forget this one! 🙂