A bewildering beginning…Teaching in Cambodia

Spoiler alert: This post is a bit of a whinge/moan-not everything is fantastic and wonderful.

It was with a certain level of excitement and nervousness that the next chapter of our adventure began-now we would be teaching English for six weeks in a Cambodian province. As we arrived at the main centre in Phnom Penh, I have to admit that I was particularly apprehensive about how I would fare given my lack of experience.

Our experience at main centre didn’t do much to reassure us about expectations moving forward over the following six weeks. The management team seemed completely disorganised when it came to welcoming in volunteers to the organisation, and there was no clear plan for training, induction or even our final teaching destination. The next three days proved to be difficult, we had arrived at a time when the team at Sols 24/7 were fasting, and as such our days would start at 5.30AM with breakfast, and then we would not eat again until the evening. This wouldn’t be so bad if it were not for the fact that the food was awful, consisting of rice and a green leaf soup, and one other dish usually consisting of elements of chicken that we wouldn’t usually eat…Admittedly you have to take into consideration that the food was prepared by the students, and they have to cook for 300 people on an extremely low budget. Part of the impressive program of ‘life skills’ that are taught throughout the program. In addition to these nutritional challenges, we were getting eaten alive by mosquitos and it was HOT!

With no clear plan about our daily activity, we ended up joining a class and following their daily lesson plan-this proved to be quite reassuring, with some extremely bright and engaging young adults displaying a refreshing eagerness to learn. They aim for students to be speaking English after just three months here, and many of them were super keen to get some practice in with some native speakers while they had the opportunity. They even managed to get us both singing for our respective classes-I’m not sure how many times they will hear the Welsh national anthem again, but I can pretty much guarantee that they won’t hear it sung like I did again! As well as the enthusiasm of the students, the teachers that we met were wonderful, many of whom are exchange teachers from Sols organisations in other countries. All of the teachers in the Sols program get the opportunity to travel with the schools and gain international experience, both Jo and I were shadowing teachers from East Timor.

On our second day we were informed that they had found a school for us-we would be heading to the province of Kampong Thom the following morning. Again at this point the lack of information or support was a little concerning, no-one really knew what time we would be leaving how, long it would take us to get there, how many students there were, or any other pertinent information about what lay ahead….My excitement and optimism was waning, and I was concerned about what lay ahead-but as we have discovered so often on our travels, sometimes you just have to let things play themselves out. And so we did, the next morning we got up, tackled our breakfast and patiently waited for our exit from main centre to materialise. Eventually we were ushered into a car, and our next jaunt into the unknown was upon us. Little did we know that the car was just taking us to the local bus stop, and we were turfed out onto the street with some pretty vague directions about making it to the province, where we would be welcomed by our host and everything would become clear. We were to take the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap bus, but we needed to negotiate with the bus driver to get him to drop us off in Prey Pros; at that point we would call the provincial teacher who would come and meet us and take us to the school-simple!

As it turns out, not really. Our first bus broke down around an hour into the journey, and so we just sat on the side of the road awaiting a replacement bus-finally this arrived and we settled in for the rest of the journey- this bus only took us to another rest stop where we would once again be changing buses! Eventually, after 6 hours, we were ushered off the third bus in our trilogy, we had finally made it…..Only that we hadn’t, the bus driver had turned us out at Kampong Thom town-and upon my appeals that we were going to Prey Pros we were just waved away with a grunt, our bags left on the street and the bus rattled off into the distance….ARGH! Feeling somewhat bemused, we booked ourselves into a guesthouse and resigned ourselves to completing the journey the following day.

A new dawn, a new day and a fresh outlook on our situation, we were waiting for the main teacher, a guy called Veshna, to come and pick us up and to take us to the school where we would be staying. Standing outside the front of the guesthouse and I had my eyes peeled for Veshna and his car…..Of course he eventually turned up on a battered old scooter, the logistics of how we would be getting back to the school all of a sudden becoming quite perplexing. We don’t have a lot of luggage, but two hefty rucksacks, two day packs, the two of us, one teacher and once scooter do not exactly equate! No problems, we managed to get another motorbike taxi and soon found ourselves having to balance precariously on the back with our rucksacks overhanging the back wheels. 20 minutes later and we were at what would be our home for the next couple of months….And what would turn out to be one of the most fulfilling times of our travels.

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Phnom Penh again, ready to teach in Cambodia

We left Nha Trang by train and made our way back to Ho Chi Minh, a journey that looked destined not to happen as our original train had crashed and a number of people had been killed-not the greatest thing to find out when you arrive at the train station! During the chaos, we bumped into a couple and their son whom we had met during our final days diving, they had very recently relocated to Ho Chi Minh from Australia and had hit Nha Trang for a few days before their work was due to begin. It’s always great to share times of uncertainty with others, and eventually we managed to negotiate ourselves onto a night train later that day. The journey itself turned out to be much longer than expected, but with the aid of engaging company the time passed painlessly and soon we staggered bleary eyed into Ho Chi Minh once again. Given the extended train journey and the uncertainty in times of arrival, we decided to stay the night in Ho Chi Minh again before catching the bus to Phnom Penh-and so we returned to the Blue River Hotel where we had spent so much time over the last six weeks.

Catching the bus the next day and we were overjoyed to be greeted by a disco bus, chandeliers included-it seemed only right that we would be leaving Vietnam in such a beast! It was the very definition of kitsch, and with the complementary Vietnamese egg pastries we settled in to the relatively short journey of 6 hours to Cambodia.

Chandeliers?!?! Of course!

Chandeliers?!?! Of course!

Egg pastries, water and a Danish...Simple pleasures!

Egg pastries, water and a Danish…Simple pleasures!

No grumbles here, the journey went absolutely fine, the only amusement coming at the border crossing where you get harried and hurried along with no idea about what’s going on. Various people taking your passport and then seemingly passing it around to anyone in a uniform to check-quite confusing, but as with pretty much every travel experience that we’ve had-it all worked out in the end. By now even my usual travel anxieties have been numbed, not entirely, but I am noticeably more relaxed than I was before our adventure.

Prior to leaving for South East Asia, both Jo and I completed an online TEFL qualification-with a view to finding volunteer work to help us extend our time here, while not spending too much money, and getting some invaluable experience for future opportunities. Not long after leaving Cambodia in November we had done just that-we secured ourselves a volunteer role with an organisation called SOLS 24/7.

The organisation is pretty impressive, you just have to take some time to look at their website and you will see that they have schools across Malaysia, East Timor, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Their provincial program focuses on teaching English to anyone, no matter your age or financial situation-their belief is that a basic grasp of English should be available to everyone. Furthermore, at their main centres they offer opportunities to study in their ‘Science of Life Studies’ program, offering a comprehensive life and business skills course, at a minimal cost, to people who want to improve their future prospects. Indeed at the main centre in Phnom Penh it is claimed that they have a 100% success rate in their students getting employment on the day that they graduate. That’s a pretty impressive statistic, bearing in mind that, at the time of writing, there were approximately 300 students studying there.

The organisation was founded by a Malaysian gent referred to by everyone as ‘Big Teacher’, he writes and develops all of the courses that they teach. At the core of their programs is their English language teaching system, with which they look to get students speaking English within three months. It is a very simple concept based on teaching a number of formulas, system words and a limited vocabulary. Once the students have grasped the basics, it is up to them to build out their repertoire.
We didn’t get to meet ‘Big Teacher’, however he is certainly held in high regard by everyone who knew him, and he was recently one of ten candidates in contention for the Nobel Prize for teaching.

The main centre for Sols 24/7 in Cambodia is based just outside the centre of Phnom Penh, so we afforded ourselves a weekend in the capital before getting down to the serious business of teaching English for the first time. It was great to return to the Cambodian capital, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but we have grown extremely fond of it and were looking forward to negotiating the frenetic and unforgiving streets once again. We took the chance to explore even further, and soon found an area that was lined with funky street cafes and bars, as well as a couple of nearby bakeries-result!

While scanning the local papers in one of the afore mentioned bakeries, we came across a review for a local arts festival being advertised in the Lakeside area of the city. For those of you that don’t know, there is no lake in Phnom Penh anymore, around five years ago the government sold the land for development and drained the lake-ergo the popular tourist hub found itself relocated to riverside, and the area became something of a forgotten jewel of the city. The guesthouses here are cheap and cheerful, the area has something of a rough reputation, but based on our experience it is a lovely place to base yourself while in Phnom Penh. The discovery of this arts festival was something of a hurrah moment, so we eagerly went along to see how the locals were looking to boost its popularity once again. What we discovered was an awesome street festival with various circus performers, graffiti artists and upcoming local music and dance groups-it was superb. The atmosphere was great, a real community spirit working together to dispel the myths that have sprouted up about the area. It felt like good things were happening in Phnom Penh, and we couldn’t be happier about it!
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Having had a few days of socialising and ‘freedom’, now it was our turn to try and do something constructive, and to find out whether we had the necessary skills to engage with students looking to study the English language.

Rainbow Diving…Our return to Nha Trang

Having completed a try dive with Rainbow Divers, we had made the decision to invest some of our budget in attempting our PADI Open Water Diving qualification. It’s quite a considerable amount of money when you are budgeting for ongoing travel, but the chance to get this under our belts with a team that we were familiar with, and in excellent diving conditions was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

So, with considerable excitement, we left Cat Ba and returned to Nha Trang.
It’s a nice feeling to return to places, to arrive without apprehension and having a little more understanding of where you are going, how much a taxi should cost-and where to get the best food! We even returned to the same hotel, where we were greeted with recognition and an appreciation of our return business-so far so good.
We made our way straight to Crazy Kims, the bar from which Rainbow Divers operated. It was clear that the ‘season’ was in full swing now-the dive centre was a hive of activity with many sunburnt smiling faces returning from their day on the boat.
We got ourselves booked in for our PADI course, and discovered that we would be taught by the instructor that had taken us for our try dives-a Dutch guy called Quentin. This was quite the result, we had both felt extremely comfortable with him on our initial dives, and he had done wonders to reassure Jo of any apprehension left over from her previous diving experiences.
Just to give you the background, Jo had started a PADI course in New Zealand a number of years back, and had a bad experience where she ended up panicking in the water-so not only was this the task of learning the necessary skills, Jo would also be trying to overcome some considerable fear.

The course would be over four days-the first day in the classroom doing all of the theory and written exams; day two we would be going to the nearby navy diving pool for instruction in various underwater techniques; then the final two mornings we would be out on the boat doing our four open water dives-very exciting indeed.

Day one in the pool and all was well-I won’t bore you with all the techniques that you cover, there is loads of information around on the internet if you’re interested-I would suggest further reading on the PADI website.
All was well, that is until we reached the final test-the full mask removal. This is something which proves to be a common difficulty for many people who do these courses, and unfortunately it was something that Jo was struggling with. Every other technique had been completed with no issue, but when it came to removing the mask Jo just couldn’t stop herself from inhaling water, and rising to the surface in a minor panic. It was gut wrenching, Quentin regretfully informed us that Jo would not be able to dive unless she got this skill nailed, but the more she tried the more frustrating it proved.
Feeling something of a heavy heart, we returned to the hotel to blast the internet to find others that struggled with the same thing-and to hopefully find some way to solve the issue. It was with some reassurance that we discovered how common an issue it was-although no simple answers, there were a few suggestions which seemed to be worth thinking about when we would be getting out on the boat the next morning.

And so we were off, our inaugural dive trip!

And so we were off, our inaugural dive trip!

First dive site, Madonna Rock...Named so because apparently they resemble a part of Madonna's anatomy....

First dive site, Madonna Rock…Named so because apparently they resemble a part of Madonna’s anatomy….

Arriving at our first dive site and we had prepped our kit and done our pre dive checks, it was time to get into the water. As we went to make our first descent, Jo’s demons returned and she just could not go ahead with the dive. She was gutted, understandably, and returned to the boat with the option of doing some snorkelling while we continued with the course. It was horrible thinking of Jo as I continued down to the dive site, I knew that she would be upset and frustrated and I wanted to get back on deck-but obviously that wasn’t an option. 20m visibility and a cacophony of colours invading my mask, the coral and fish giving me some other worldly vista…but only for brief moments. You see, I am still always aware of the fear, the fear that I am underwater and I need to concentrate on doing all that I have been instructed to do. Every now and again, I would catch glimpses of this fantastical environment, but for the most part I was consumed with self awareness and, indeed, self preservation…….And Quentin, hand signals giving me instruction, and his backside leading the way.
The first dive complete and we returned to the boat to set sail for our next dive site-Jo was in surprisingly good spirits and being a lot more positive than I would have been…Whether that was a direct result of cake consumption or not I’m not sure, but she was handling things brilliantly. At the second site I continued my course and Jo got involved with some snorkelling, the excellent visibility treating Jo to more of a coral colour show than I managed to muster-with my blinkered concentration only allowing me glimpses of the world around me!

On our return journey Quentin came to debrief us and seemed resigned to finishing Jo’s course with a program of snorkelling for the next day-this was a desperately disappointing conversation to close the morning off. Having returned to shore and gotten back to our hotel, we decided to approach Rainbow Divers and ask them to get Jo back in the Navy pool to get her skills finalised on the last day. Given that we had paid for the PADI course, an afternoon of snorkelling wouldn’t be enough to get out of it, and getting over the hurdle of the face mask removal would obviously be of more benefit. Quentin agreed to help us out and take Jo back to the pool for a one to one session the next day-hopefully nailing all the necessary skills. Somewhat happier with the situation, we ate and went to hit the sack early ready for the final day in the water. Lo and behold when we got back to the hotel there was a phone call from Quentin, the following day wouldn’t be possible to take Jo to the pool-so he wanted her to come out on the boat again and we would find ‘pool like conditions’ where Jo could try the skills once again. On the one hand it was great that Jo would be out on the boat with me again, on the other it added a certain amount of uncertainty back into the equation. Little did we know that this twist of fate would prove to be the absolute best thing that could have happened!

Out on the boat for the final time and my penultimate dive served to tick the final boxes on the skills that I needed to demonstrate to pass my PADI qualification-I had done it, just one ‘fun dive’ left where I would be ‘just diving’ for the first time.

Quentin giving me the international approval sign of a high five!

Quentin giving me the international approval sign of a high five!

PADI Jones, ready for action!

PADI Jones, ready for action!

Now it was time for Jo to get back in the water and find a spot to try and get the mask removal nailed. As Quentin and Jo swam a bit further towards shore, I took the opportunity to do some snorkelling myself while I waited. Jo seemed to be in the water for an absolute age, by this time I had returned to deck and had immersed myself in a program of coffee drinking and cake eating! Soon enough there was movement at the back of the boat and I made my way to meet Jo as she returned to deck. Broad smiles on their faces seemed to be a good indicator, not only had Jo managed to nail the full mask removal first time (plus another two times!), but Quentin had also gotten her to complete the rest of the required skills. Basically Jo completely nailed it! Quite obviously delighted, Quentin then informed us that he would be more than happy for Jo to join us on our final dive. She would not take away the final PADI accreditation, but she would only have to complete three more open water dives to finish the course. It seemed a far cry from the disappointment of the previous day, and taking to the waters together for the final dive was a superb way to finish our time here.

RESULT!!!!!

RESULT!!!!!

Pretty darn happy with the way things turned out!

Pretty darn happy with the way things turned out!

Dive buddies!

Dive buddies!

Summarising our experience, Rainbow Divers were excellent and the diving in Nha Trang was wonderful. Quentin deserves special recognition for his patience and effort-we are now both proud owners of dive log books, and we are looking forward to finding somewhere else in the world to get Jo’s final three dives ticked off.

This would also be our final act in Vietnam, for now we return to Cambodia, and a six week volunteer teaching post in a Cambodian province.

Cat Ba and the karsts of Halong Bay

Ha Long Bay…Wikipedia ‘facts’:

Hạ Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem

Possibly the most iconic and well known of Vietnamese landscapes, we were set and excited to do our own exploration of Ha Long Bay. After Angkor Wat, this part of the trip was one of my most eagerly awaited sights-ever since my first encounter with Scaramanga’s Lair in The Man With The Golden Gun I have always dreamed of visiting these shored. Having perused countless blogs and travel magazines with their stories of wonder at this geological spectacle, it was now time for us to discover them for ourselves.
We had decided to go to the island of Cat Ba and explore the area from there, resisting the urge to simply organise a package trip from Hanoi and fly through someone else’s itinerary-we made our way to the superbly named Ali Baba’s and prepared for a few days of adventure.
Ali Baba’s was the top recommended guest house that we could find, with particular plaudits for the tours that were arranged by the owner. At just $5 a night with picture perfect views of the harbour from our room, initial reactions were positive to say the least , and soon we had arranged our boat trip for the next day-a tour of the islands, some kayaking, potential rock climbing and a cliff jump-it all sounded spectacular.

Not a bad view for $5 a night, I'm sure you'll agree?!

Not a bad view for $5 a night, I’m sure you’ll agree?!

Wandering around the town of Cat Ba, and it certainly seemed like we were there ‘off season’. Many of the restaurants and bars were closed, and the town had the feeling of a place treading water until the next deluge of tourists. For us this proved to be little problem, we weren’t here to party and there were enough places open to give us quite the choice on food options, but the atmosphere lacked a little.

Next morning prepped and ready for a day out on the boat, the weather was a little overcast, but nothing to grumble about, certainly considering what we’re used to in the UK! Before long we were on a bus with about another 10 people who were on the trip, everyone quite obviously keen for the off-within 30 minutes we were on the boat and away-cameras at the ready.

Scenes from a postcard pass on either side as our voyage begins

Scenes from a postcard pass on either side as our voyage begins

Overcast conditions just add to the drama unfolding before us

Overcast conditions just add to the drama unfolding before us

First glimpses of the floating fishing village in the shadows of many karsts

First glimpses of the floating fishing village in the shadows of many karsts

The village sprawls much further than you would expect

The village sprawls much further than you would expect

First stop, the originally named Monkey Island. As you would expect, the clue is in the title and we eagerly disembarked to explore the island to see whether we could spot some of the resident primates. As is so often the case in Asia, don’t expect the route forward to be entirely clear, so we blindly followed our guide up a surprisingly challenging climb to the peak of the island. It may surprise you to know that neither Jo or I are blessed with the rock balancing ability of a mountain goat, quite the opposite. So as we took our time and made sure there were always three points of contact between the rocks and us-we were quite put to shame by those ‘more youthful’ teetering on the very summit for ‘edge of the world selfies’
Seemingly the weather had affected the monkeys, hidden away nowhere to be seen, but no bother given the stunning surrounding vistas to enjoy.

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From here a meandering tour through various karst structures dotted all around us-we were heading to an area where we could take some time out to immerse ourselves in the surrounding beauty on kayak. The views were stunning for the whole of the journey, as you’ll be able to judge from the photos:

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Scenes from a postcard pass on either side as our voyage begins

Scenes from a postcard pass on either side as our voyage begins

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Excitedly we gallop down the gangplank to the platform where the kayaks were waiting for us-although the first thing that we encountered was something quite unexpected. the fishermen that also use the platform had caught an absolutely massive fish. I mean this thing was huge. It was being kept in a little area under the platform, looming to the surface of the water every now and again and eyeballing us-it wouldn’t surprise me if it was just mentally logging everyone’s faces for revenge purposes, with plans for an imminent escape.

Having been distracted enough, we got presented with our two person kayak only to realise that we would be having to accommodate one more. Don’t you just hate that in Asia, always room for one more?! Fortunately this time the plus one was a crab ‘happily’ tucked away by my feet. As long as he didn’t have any desires on my toes, we’d get along just fine.

'Captain-we have a stowaway'

‘Captain-we have a stowaway’

Time to get where the big boats canny

Time to get where the big boats canny

Born to be on the water, the powerhouse of the operation

Born to be on the water, the powerhouse of the operation

More of a figurehead, happy to take photos...!

More of a figurehead, happy to take photos…!

A good couple of hours on the water, and the acquisition of another one of them old life skills! Our guide teaching us how to fish off the side of his canoe with a line and hook, using locally sourced mussels as bate to effortlessly pluck a fish for lunch from the waters. First time was great, but then we jinxed him-with all future efforts ending with failure. Still, 30% of the time it works every time….
Lunch was served back on the boat and it was a delight-as so often on these excursions it’s the meals where you expect very little, that you discover a lot-and this was one of those occasions.
Next port of call was a small deserted beach-and time for Jo and I to prove our metal as the only passengers willing to jump off the boat and swim over to the shore. The water was fresh, invigorating, made my skin tingle like I was in a bath full of Tiger Balm. as we looked round us we truly appreciated a special moment. The deep green water giving birth to the jagged rock outcrops around us, seeing the surroundings from a different perspective-it was an exhilarating feeling.
The next challenge proved to be something beyond us, the rock climb and cliff jump. I was quite bullish about the idea, and Jo was pretty pre-determined too-but when it came down to it I simply did not have the skills or guts to attempt the ‘climb and jump’! In fact the only person to do it was Ali Baba himself, treating us to a wonderful exhibition of his skills-scaling the side of the rock effortlessly, gecko like in his movement-before taking a moment, and leaping off-to our obvious glee!

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By this point we had formed friendships with others on the boat, particularly a Canadian guy called George and a Norwegian lady called Ulla. Both had been travelling extensively, with some colourful and insightful tales to share, so the rest of the journey we enjoyed engaging conversation, blessed with the most picturesque of backdrops.

Somewhat exhausted we returned to shore, found ourselves a suitable spring roll vendor, and wrapped up the evening quick time. It was once again time to take to two wheels and explore our locale, we had found an easy hike that we could do, and the sights of ‘Hospital Cave’ and the Cat Ba Cannon Station-offering the most spectacular views on the island they say. I say ‘easy hike’, but like most things in Asia, nothing is easy in this heat. It was an odd entrance into the Cat Ba National Park, you enter down an avenue which eventually reveals that it is the home of a semi abandoned village-some people still there trying to sell you a drink, or a t-shirt, but, on the whole, deserted.

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As we made our way towards the start of the hike, we intermittently passed by people on the way down….Who I have to say were a pretty grumpy and negative bunch! Most of them advised us to turn back, warning us how difficult and slippery the trail was. Usually I find that people are more encouraging and tell you how it’s worth the effort! No putting us off, and we increased pace a little to see what would be in store for us. As it turns out, it was absolutely fine-I do not know what ell the other people were on about! By good fortune we bumped into George once again on our way up-and promptly made dinner plans, always good to share your experiences with people. At the top and were once again bathing in views of misty mountains and jungle stretching out into the distance.

The goal!

The goal!

The 'achievement' pose

The ‘achievement’ pose

'Top of the World' pose!

‘Top of the World’ pose!

Misty mountains

Misty mountains

One of the locals

One of the locals

We descended from the peak like veritable mountain goats and mounted our trusty steed to hit the coastal road on our return to Cat Ba. Prompted by the recommendation of views that were quite spectacular, and that it was well worth going a little out of the way. Off we set with camera at the ready and high hopes for further enchantment from Ha Long Bay…..until we found the road to be blocked by a landslide-talk about anti-climax! Not that we’re complaining, we were still lucky enough to be scooting around a gorgeous Vietnamese island after all.

ONWARDS I tell thee!

ONWARDS I tell thee!

Ahhhh, a roadblock you say?!

Ahhhh, a roadblock you say?!

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During the Indochina wars Cat Ba was a strategic look-out point, and as such was targeted by heavy bombing. Local residents were often forced into hiding among the Island’s many caves, and one such cave was to be our next stop on our route home. Hospital Cave was a secret, bomb-proof hospital during the Vietnam War and was also used as a safe house for VC commanders. I wasn’t really prepared for what we eventually found-I was expecting a cave with a few rooms carved out-what we actually encountered was a three story fortified hospital inside a mountain…No slap dash construction here-this place was extremely impressive.

The main chamber inside Hospital Cave-apparently it was used for screening films

The main chamber inside Hospital Cave-apparently it was used for screening films

It would be foolish to claim to fully understand the conditions that people had to cope with-but for sure here you get an idea of the ingenuity and adaptability of people in the most testing of times.
From the hospital we set about heading to Cannon Fort, quite the opposite in terms of function. Strategic watch point with four old bunkers, a helicopter landing station, a number of big ground-to-air munitions, as well stunning views from a peak 177 meters above Cat Ba town. From here you could get a 360 degree view of the island, a bird’s eye view of the town and the harbours, and of course the many limestone karsts that form the unique landscape found in Lan Ha Bay. It was the perfect way to draw our visit here to a conclusion. Now a hop, skip, jump (or bus, boat, bus, bus, taxi!) back to Hanoi, and then to make our return to Nha Trang to attempt our PADI Open Water Diving qualifications.

Cannon Fort offers the best vantage point on the island

Cannon Fort offers the best vantage point on the island

360 degrees of WOW!

360 degrees of WOW!

The pathways for the fort are all hidden away-secret squirrel stylee

The pathways for the fort are all hidden away-secret squirrel stylee

Munitions tracks run throughout the fort

Munitions tracks run throughout the fort

Jo really looking the part at one of the cannons

Jo really looking the part at one of the cannons

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