Hurrah – Cat Ba!
Cat Ba is a lovely relaxing holiday spot that we’d visited last year. It’s a relatively small island and situated about four hours by car/ferry, east of Hanoi. There are several beautiful beaches that are pristine and have been very peaceful each time we’ve visited them. After four long days biking on the varied Vietnamese roads from Sa Pa, this visit we were definitely ready for a bit of Cat Ba rest and rejuvenation.
Last time we stayed at Cat Ba Beach Resort in a hut type structure – it’s right on the beach and so you fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the sea, absolutely amazing and we’d highly recommend this experience. This time around we were on a budget so decided on a very nice but much cheaper option; a hotel near the town centre.
We rolled into Cat Ba late Friday afternoon, a little weary from all the biking. We settled into the room and then decided to go and get something to eat – Eddie was on a mission to find his favourite potato and minced meat dish from last time but alas the restaurant seemed to have changed and it was nowhere to be found – although we did manage to order something a little similar. We then decided we’d do a tour of the island by bike but shortly after setting off there was a huge down pour and rather than ride the wet roads we had our excuse for an early night to recharge the batteries!
That night the rain turned into quite a storm and around 10.00 p.m. our hotel lights went out and we realised there was a power cut – thankfully the hotel had a back up generator and about 15 minutes later electricity returned.
The next morning we woke up refreshed, the weather was sunny and so we decided on a day at the beach – woohoo! We went back to the Cat Ba beach resort (where we stayed before) and pinched two beach sun loungers underneath a palm leaf shelter – about an hour into our heist a resort employee asked if we were guests, because if not we would need to pay for our prime spot… It turns out we could rent them for 60,000 VND (around 2.5 USD) for the day – what a bargain, sold! We stayed on the beach most of the day and then got a little peckish so packed up our things around 5.00 p.m. And went back to the hotel to change up for dinner.
That night we walked along the high street and it was buzzing with action (well, for Cat Ba) – we assessed a few restaurants and decided on a place that was a hive activity – when in doubt, our rule of thumb seems to be to eat at the popular places! We weren’t disappointed and we had a lovely beef and vegetable dinner, washed down with local beer. After dinner we walked back down the high street towards our hotel as we had an early start the next morning.
Early the next morning we set off for Cat Ba pier as we had a boat trip booked, leaving at 9.00 a.m. that would take us all around Halong Bay. It was a beautiful sunny day and when we arrived the boat was full, there were families, friends and couples, around 25 all up.
All aboard, we set sail for Halong Bay and it wasn’t long before we could see all the iconic knobbly islands with the sun and blue sky providing the ultimate backdrop.
We were taking in the views for an hour or so and then we arrived at our first destination; a small floating port between islands where we were able to jump off for around an hour and go kayaking in and around the islands and in some awesome caves – we then came to a couple of lagoons and at one point saw hundreds of jelly fish all around us, yikes, time to head back!
All back on the boat it was time to have some lunch – the boat chef provided quite a feast; we were sat in tables of seven and big sharing plates were set in the centre – rice, vegetables, local chicken and fish dishes, spring rolls, tofu etc. So full!
We continued sailing along and after lunch the boat stopped and we then had the opportunity to swim in the sea (life jackets and snorkels provided) and most people didn’t need any encouragement – the boat was evacuated and there was lots of diving fun, and splashing around!
After around 40 minutes of this it was time to jump back on the boat and we continued the tour. We then sailed over to a floating village at the south east of Cat Ba and again we were able to get off and walk on some of the floating houses and take photos.
Back on the boat it was time for us to set sail to Monkey Island where we saw monkeys, climbed steep and rocky hills to see look outs, and went back in the sea for a swim.
After all the fun it was time to head back to Cat Ba port and it was then a short walk back to the hotel room. We were so tired we pretty much passed out!
We were us early (ish) the next morning where it was time to bid Cat Ba farewell and we rode on towards the ferry to Haiphong.
It was as relaxing and fun as we were hoping for and still remains a real soft spot of a destination for us.