A new year trip in Lan Ha bay

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After a wonderful trip to start new year in Lan Ha bay, there are some things I want to remember

1. Prepare

A few hours for logistics, but it actually takes 12 years to learn language and 2,5 years to get some experiences. Such a long time to be comfortable and natural in this profession (or any kind of job I guess). I used to be burnt out by enthusiasm. Not anymore.

That’s why I am not very excited about interns. So eager about transforming into sb else, they r like “Can u give me some formulas, guidelines, etc?”

Time. Work. Constant work. That’s the “formula”.

The funny thing about experience spectrum: the more naive you are, the more eager you become. And with customer service jobs, sometimes it pays off. That’s why tour company like new blood. New blood or interns always go out of their way to deliver and prove. In return, employers motivate by lavish compliments. Why not? Lavish compliments don’t cost a thing.

And that’s exactly what new ppl crave for: appreciation.

They can TAKE ADVANTAGE of your enthusiasm if they can. That’s it in business. But eventually, If you are good, you stay. If not, you are out.

Sometimes it’s not about being good but being suitable. Another complicated story. Just because we are humans, unpredictable animals.

2. Expect nothing

Weather can be bad and guests can be demanding. And it’s fine.

Anytime there are some people you can’t handle, you learn st to approach next time.

3. Make the most of surprises.

Don’t promise surprises (what u can’t control or surely deliver). If it comes, cool, ride with it.

4. Know you role.

Things happen for a reason: cash from customers, teamwork. I am part of a chain and I don’t overrate my role.

However, in interactions, just be “there”. Forget about real drives behind things. Just be there as a person to listen, share and observe.

Give people space. Be there when it’s necessary. Stay away when it’s not.

5. Know your privileges and enjoy it

Sure work can be great. Because Why not? 😉

Cat Ba’s vibe

“Anh oi, do I need to give you the ID ?”

“No need to. Where do you stay?”

“Little Cat Ba. It’s in Ha Sen street, 2 km from here”

“Ah, mr. Nguyen’s place. I know him. Just come back here 3 days later to give the money then. By the way, the petrol station is just over there, just ride straight ahead then turn left. 50,000 VND is enough”

“Thank you”

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Just like that. No hard sell, no paperwork. Some verbal promises and I get the motorbike rented. Things work that way in Cat Ba island. Surprisingly simple, yes, but the business here is traded with the currency of trust.

Cat Ba has a real vibe with it. A special friend of mine mentioned that when first I brought him here last winter. I totally agreed. The vibe of a coastal town is clear: boats after boats going out to the ocean and come back to dock at harbor every day; market with vibrant seafood trading activities, seagulls and eagles keep flying around, dotting some beautiful white and black colors to the emerald sea water. Things keep arousing my senses as I keep coming back. But Cat Ba is much more than just being a breathtaking beautiful seaside location.

Figuring out direction by asking a random person on street is merely impossible in cities, yet it works that way here . With only 8000-ish people in an area of 59,2 km2, everyone in the town nearly all knows each other. It gives you a safe feeling, a form of family extension. When the breakfast seller wondered how could I wake up so early after the late previous night though I totally don’t know her, a feeling of home just emerged and overwhelmed me, knowing that people care here, that in a sense, I am covered and protected.

The vibe of a specific place in a trip depends on many factors. Weather, your mood at that moment, transportation, fellow travelers along the way, but in the end what matters most is how people treat you. Being in a foreign place, especially as a solo traveler, no matter how many guidebooks carried and read, a person can still feel like an outsider. That may explain why there are always backpacker areas in every big attraction all over the world, whose the main purpose of creating a “comfort zone” for people. There is no such thing here which astonishes me, considering the fact that most of travelers coming to Cat Ba are hard-core big-pack-on-the-back-carriers.

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The gang before hot pot time

I’ve met some people after times coming back and forth here and so many of them have extended their stay from one night to one week, some even stay to work as tour guides in the island and consider it as their second home.

It is something unexpected actually: the emotion journey starts with adventures as you start to explore the island and then gets to the smooth loop when you are so familiar with all the routes and people that it feels so hard to leave.

The exotic location in guidebooks suddenly becomes your second home, just much more beautiful. That smooth loop keeps exciting myself time after time, the point where exoticism and familiarity converge.

I am writing this after a farewell hotpot with four friends: captain Jack, Austin, Mike and Luke. Rain was raining and it was pretty cold outside, but the hotpot was more than enough to warm us up. Jack (Toan) is a hotel owner and the guys are his guests, yet after 10 days staying in Cat Ba in low season, they are comfortable enough to sit around like buddies, drinking wine and share stories. Toan bought the best seafood from Cat Ba market and gave the best wine from his personal selection while Mike sang a song that all of us will remember for a long time, with lovely notes from his Ukelele which ends by two sentences

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You can’t make everybody happy

All of the time…

Yet somehow Cat Ba has given everyone of us something we need and cheers all us up.

How weird that is.

La isla Bonita

As a daydreamer who tend to idealize things, Asia Outdoor has always been in my heart as a crush.

I met them two years ago when I first came to Cat Ba, leading groups of backpackers bar hopping, being crazy and stupid together while they escape life in vacation and I escape life in work. And just seeing those dynamic climbers for the first time, I was immediately hooked. That hub of energetic climbers are like magnet, pulling us in, evoking in us a wild sensation.

Set up by Slo & Erik, 2 American hard core climbers, Asia Outdoors soon become the climbing monopoly in the area. A group of carefree climbers from all over the world gathering in a blissful island doing what they do best, with passion. A great stopover in life for anyone who loves adventure. YOLO at its most romantic scene.

Members keep changing but may not necessarily be something to be sad about. People come, living their dream wildly for a certain time and when the dream is over, they move on. Energy flows, maintaining a constant gratification for anyone involved.

A friend once commented “That’s a strange island” on a bus coming back to his country. You meet people & have connections there, and it feels like a flash in life. The memories were frozen, people saying goodbye and never meet again. You lived it, loved it but may not want to do it again. It crystallizes into a gem, reflecting your youth beautifully, that’s it. Like a postcard from childhood in a precious box. You still keep it and open once in a while to be nostalgic and wowed again. Maybe when life lets you down.

“Be careful who you make memories with. Those things can last a lifetime”