With two days left of our Vietnam stay we decided to take a trip to Cat Ba island. For many people they take a tour on a modern junk boat, stay overnight and see one of the Worlds new 7 wonders branded Halong Bay area. The weather forecast was average and we have spent enough time sleeping on boats that it didn’t really appeal to us. So we arranged independent transport and got to Haiphong and caught the hydrofoil across to the island. The boat is fast, it takes about 50 minutes to cross and is ‘driven’ in a similar way to the taxis and coaches, i.e flat out and slightly scary. The boat itself has seen better days and I definitely wouldn’t want to be on it if it collided with one of the many large container ships in the harbour area. The good thing is it arrives right in front of the town jetty.
Cat Ba town is not pretty, lots of old hotels and buildings so on arrival it doesn’t look much. It was quiet being off season and we could have the pick of most of the hotels, we found a sea view room at the Song Chanh hotel for 7 USD for the night. It was pretty basic but clean and run by a family, the boss of which rode up and down the strip on a BMX bike looking for business.
We went for a long walk to see the 3 main local beaches Cat Co 1,2 and 3. All of which were deserted, two of them have resorts on them but you can still get to the beaches. From the town you can walk around the headland to the first beach and get good views of the beaches and fishing boats.
Our main reason for coming to Cat Ba was to do some rock climbing, so we met up at the 6pm meeting with the Slo Pony climbing company which is located in the immediate hotel/building when you get off the boat. Very relaxed and laid back to the point we were not sure what was going on, but in the end we got on a half day trip the next morning.
We have almost given up on taking trip advisor suggestions for restaurants, as at least 2 top ranked places recently visited have not been, the rankings can be so easily wrong with just a few reviews. So we just picked one of the street front vendors and sat down on the usual tiny plastic seats for some Pho, fried potatoes, onions and carrots. Possibly one of the best meals we have had in the month, and all for around 3 pounds including a couple of beers.
Slo Pony got going at 9am the next morning and 3 of us, along with a couple of instructors got on a boat and set off for one of the islands. Great views of the bay karsts on the way and we edged out through the working fishing harbour for 20-30 minutes. The climbing island looked very picturesque with great karst cliffs, if it was sunny it would have looked amazing. We were joined by a couple from Taiwan and that was it. All very relaxed, no time pressure, and both of the instructors were excellent. We did around 3-5 climbs each of varying difficulty. KT was very proud to have done one of the tougher ones which was quite an achievement. By the end we were all tired out, returned to the boat and had lunch. We then got taken back to a different port, grabbed a couple of xe oms (motorbike taxis) and got back to relax before our ferry left to start the process to get us back to Hanoi.
It was an excellent way to finish our month stay in Vietnam, an adrenaline packed morning with a good friendly bunch of people.