After the craziness of Hanoi we are pretty excited at the thought of going to Cat Ba Island, just south of Ha Long Bay. The journey, we are told can take 3 hours, it takes us twice that long. 3 buses, 1 boat, 1 scam and 1 near death bus collision later we get there. The bay is underwhelming, scruffy high rise hotels and restaurants overlook a murky sea with no beach to speak of. I hold out great hope that there will be specialness that just needs to be found. As we trudge I am secretly freaking out that our accomodation will be horrible, actually I'm kind of expecting it after the last hotel. I hold my breath until I walk in, a cold gust of air greats me - air con works, and the room is great. Happy mother
Like a starved cat on the hunt for its next meal, we are all hungry for the next holiday thrill as we we explore Cat Ba Island. So much on offer, overnight boat trips, kayaking, national park, rock climbing. We have spent hours scouring the Internet looking for that special something. We find it. Asia outdoors, looks like the company for us. Walk in and immediately greeted by this wonderful friendly face, which is a welcome change from the often sullen expressionless service we have had in Vietnam. We choose an overnight cruise with rock climbing and kayaking.
You know when you walk into a place where you feel like they just got everything sorted, that's how we felt, it was organised, friendly and informative, we were ready to rock and roll.
It's a beautiful day as we cruise with our crew into Lan Ha Bay. They set up lunch for us on the top deck. With full bellies, stunning backdrop and sun warming my skin, I was ready for a kip, but the kids were gagging to jump of the top deck of the boat. So much fun! Flips, dives and squeals, the water was warm and the setting idyllic. The kind of stuff you remember forever.
Rock climbing was amazing. A first time for our family and we were a bit nervous, well, maybe not the kids but I was. The guides patiently guided us through, and in no time we were rocking those cliffs. The kids are hooked now, rock climbers in the making.
Back on the boat we sit on the top deck, crack a beer and get to know our crew and fellow travellers. The sun sets as our tummies rumble and it's time for more food, again. Yum. We Swim we jump we laugh until late into the night.
Watching the lightning show from my bed on the top deck will be something I will always remember, never have I experienced anything like it probably never will again.
The next day kayaking past the fishing villages was fascinating, small shacks with tvs and classical music playing whilst their guard dogs run the planks. Kids rowing themselves to and fro having a laugh, woman cooking on their front decks.
Louisa was our guide, she had an infectious laugh and a happy go lucky nature. We follow her into secret grottos and lagoons, swimming at our whims. Pulling onto private white sand beaches and pretending we were the first to ever set foot on its shores, sucking in the beauty around us.
Back to cat ba as the typhoon hits, we get soaked to our bones as we walk the short distance to our accomadation. The tv is on the blink, and the 8 story building is swaying, time for uno. This time we play for chocolate, it's pretty tense. After a day of being confined in our room we are hungry and desperate to escape. Our local the Noble house is full to the brim of restless travelers, we find our friends Katie and Chris, a wonderful couple from England and proceed to go to war with a game called spoons. Competitive glares and tactics are pulled out, someone nearly loses a finger in the mad grab, but Katie, the fierce Irish lass was crowned champ. What fun.
Cat Ba, I wouldn't go for the beaches, I wouldn't go for the food, and I defiantly wouldn't go for the hospitality but defiantly go. Dig a little bit and you will find some treasure of history and real beauty.