Ha Long Bay is a well known tourist island north east of Vietnam. I had originally planned to visit, however in true backpacker spirit, I was easily swayed to visit the less busy Cat Ba instead.
As you’re aware the journey to Cat Ba was an adventure in itself, so by the time we finally arrived at 9am, with only two hours in our sleep bank, we were exhausted.
After a quick breakfast/coffee to try and perk ourselves up, we headed to our guesthouse. Unlike Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba is less touristy and more of an ‘up and coming’ area, which means it has a lot of construction work. I read reviews online about the noise along the sea front so opted for a guesthouse further back from the main drag. I had made maybe my first good decision since leaving England 👌.
I previously met a lovely American girl called Amber very briefly in Laos. Amber had spent a lot of time exploring Vietnam, however had never ventured off by herself. Cat Ba was her big break and we had planned to meet for a familiar(ish) face. The afternoon was spent with both Erika and Amber eating, drinking a lot of coffee, exploring the beach and taking a hike up Cannon Fort viewpoint.This historical fortress was used during three wars, including the Vietnam war.
Tuesday 21st February
After a good night sleep, we woke up early for an island boat trip.
All aboard (see what I did there), we set sail (and again – even though it was engine run) for our first port of call (no comment) which was the fish farms. These farms buy baby fish and then spend years nurturing and feeding them until they are at a decent weight to sell on. Sometimes this process can take up to 10 years.
We even got the opportunity to jump off the boat to explore the farms further. After hearing this was a government run farm, instead of local, I quickly lost interest. Erika and I did however get to try smoking a bong – when in Vietnam! Seeing as we don’t even smoke cigarettes, the intensity of the tobacco made our heads spin. Don’t worry it was legal. We continued on our voyage through the eerily beautiful landscape, before stopping for a spot of kayaking.The rest of the boat ride was spent eating the most amazing seafood, an hour nap (I can never keep my eyes open on boats) and stopping for a swim – I didn’t go in, far too cold. Wednesday 22nd February
As Tuesday was a fairly lazy day, it was time to burn off some of the copious amounts of food, with a hike to the peak of the National Park.
The trek was moderate, however the humidity made it intense. There were also a few panicked occasions where I got cobwebs to the face followed by a quick giant spider check. But dripping with sweat and spider free, we made it to the top in an hour and a half and what a breathtaking view. As it was only 11am by the time we got back to base camp, I suggested maybe we should take the two and a half hour walk back to Cat Ba town.
An hour and a half in, with light droplets of rain landing on our heads, we were done with walking on the road. Still an hour away, we decided to try and get a lift, expecting to pick up a bus and pay far too much for the remaining journey.
It was then my ears pricked as I heard motorbikes approaching. I turned around expecting to see a family of four on one bike, but no it was instead three Westerners on three separate scooters (score). Mum don’t get annoyed with me on this next part, however I quickly put out my thumb and we were very kindly driven back to Cat Ba town. We even ended up having lunch with our noble saviours 😊. Amber left that afternoon and as it was raining, Erika and I had a few beers and a chill out session.
Thursday 23rd February
We left Cat Ba on the 9am bus on Thursday heading back to Hà Nội to soon be reunited with my newly stamped passport.
Sitting on the bus I had mixed reservations whether to stay in Hà Nội one more night, or to get the bus straight to Ninh Binh that evening. My decision was made for me as buses only left after 6pm and there was no way I’d be staying in Hà Nội a whole extra day. I think its a marmite kind of place, you either love it or hate it. For me, I found it highly stressful as I was beyond overwhelmed by the noise, pollution, tonnes of people, dirt and beeping of the city.
Knowing I was leaving that evening, Erika and I had our last supper and coffee before very sadly going our separate ways. It was a tough goodbye, but not a definite one as I know we will chat/see each other again. The beauty of travelling 😊. However after spending an amazing week together, it was going to be hard going back to the life of a lone ranger.
My rather unsteady adventure continued as I was picked up by a scooter. Just to give you some context, I had vowed to never get on a bike in Hà Nội. It was hard enough to walk on the streets let alone drive. After seeing how crazy the drivers were and also being hit twice (once being driven into and the other being whacked by someone’s shopping), it was no surprise. With my bag between the drivers leg we slalomed to the bus stop.
The bus ride was quick but maybe because I was dumped a good 40 minute walk from the hostel 🙈. Luckily there were two people with me and a taxi driver conveniently waiting. I had arrived at my next stop Ninh Binh 😊 – time to explore.
Jessica Storm ✌️