Following on from a few days in the sizeable city of Hue, we headed off from the mainland for the next leg of the trip. Via plane, boat, taxi and bus a lengthy 6 hour trek took us from Da Nang in central Vietnam to Cat Ba island off of the north east coast.
Our hostel was located just outside of the main centre of Cat Ba town, on a hilled road which met up towards the vast forests which seemingly dominate the centre of the island.
We arrived at around 6:30pm so decided to take advantage of the many bars and restaurants surrounding us. The local beer to the island takes its name from the nearby mainland city of Haiphong. A cold one of these for just 20,000 vnd (£0.70/80) after a day of travelling went down a treat.
The first half of our first full day on the island was a surprising washout. Heavy rain and thunder made it so we couldn’t head out until early afternoon, but it wasn’t all bad. The heavy downpour had cooled the air around Catba, making our walk up to the islands cannon fort just that bit more bearable.
Unfortunately we wouldn’t get the chance to see the fort as we were told at the gates that it was in fact closed for the time we were on the island. I would love to tell you about it, but it unfortunately wasn’t to be.
Not to worry, this island still has lots of other things to offer. There are 3 beaches on Catba, the biggest being just a 15 minute walk from the town. It was much brighter once we arrived and despite the busyness (a 3 month summer holiday had just begun in Vietnam) it made for a lovely spot. The tide was in, yet the views of the surrounding cliffs and the bay were remarkable. Definitely somewhere to revisit at another point.
Our second morning started much earlier, we were sat on a minibus to the island port at 8:30am for a boat and kayak trip. On the way out from Catba we sailed past the floating village, in which many locals live and work on the water to supply both themselves and the island. It has been gradually built on over the years with many of the residents being unable to afford housing on the island.
We headed up the east coast of the island, stopping off after 45 minutes to hop into kayaks and make our way around a small secluded bay. The clear waters and narrow caves provided a perfect, calm route; with the lush green of the rocky cliffs making it feel secluded from the rest of the world.
The guide who set off with us made sure to take us into this secluded area, our group of 8 was fortunate to get to the enclosure before a significantly larger group. This definitely added to the experience, allowing for the attention to remain on the sights and sounds of the creatures on the cliffs and in the water.
For a first time kayaker, I felt I didn’t do too badly. There was no capsizing and Steph and I only occasionally bumped into other rowers. Not too shabby if I may say so myself.
After the day out kayaking we clambered back onto the boat and ventured back south towards Cat Ba once again. The day was cloudy fit the most part, yet the sun started to shine through by the time we were in the bus back across the island.
The weather wasn’t the kindest to us fir our stay on Catba, yet it was still a fantastic few days. Sunnier weather wouldn’t have changed much, so all in all the island trip was a success; minus the sunburn.
Our stay in Vietnam is almost at an end, with a trip to the capital of Hanoi last up on the agenda before flying to South Korea next week.