The Con of Cat Ba

24 Oct
A neon signed floating resturant

The floating restaurants say it all...

So, after some research we finally figured out that you can actually go to Halong Bay without paying at least $60 for one day.

We took a bus-boat-bus from Hanoi which left around 1:30pm, this meant we got to Cat Ba town after dark. This was one of the most disappointing experiences (except for Thakhek in Laos). We expected a little untouched island, we got Blackpool… Glowing neon floating restaurants, a sea front covered with hotels and a great big glowing arch thing with “Welcome to Cat Ba” in LED lettering. Needless to say we felt conned, not necessarily by anyone but by what we expected.We checked into a hotel feeling disappointed and hoping that the view in the morning might change.

Slate cliffs and Sandy beaches

The next day things did start to look better; the view from our room was pretty nice. A short walk to one of the nearest beaches and we had come back round to loving the place. Beautiful sandy coves, huge slate cliffs with green vegetation covering the tops and more islands and mountains in the distance slowly fading into the monsoon mists. There was a cliff edge walk way leading from one beach to the another, but sadly years of bad weather had collapsed and rotted through it, but it made the beach feel slightly more atmospheric. There was also a cliff top path leading round one of the headlands. We followed the trail and each turn made us more exited with the beautiful views of Halong Bay. As we made our way back towards the hotel the sun had begun to set.

They got the land but we got the view

The cliff top path

Unfortunately the sun set behind a far off island and we couldn’t see it go down. But then, slowly at first, the sky began to change. The sky over the harbour became a surreal pink and purple, the water reflected this and changed too, whilst the boats became surreal silhouettes against the cut-out islands. It really was one of the most surprising and unreal sunsets I have ever seen.

Pink Meow

The next day, inspired by what we had seen, we set off on a motorbike to explore the rest of the island. Once again we were surprised by each turn of the coastal cliff-top road. Forgotten beaches, ocean stacks, huge cliffs and endless jungle surrounding the road.

We had been told that in  the centre of the island was a national park and with it a beautiful view. We took a narrow set of steps up the mountain; the steps became lose paving slabs, the paving slabs disappeared and became dirt and tree roots, the tree roots became rocks, the rocks became ladders.

After about an hour of sweating and walking/climbing up the hill we reached the top. There stood a tower of rusted looking iron. Cautiously  we climbed it (Clare didn’t like the height and I didn’t like the hornets flying around the top) but the view was incredible. No photo could really show the it justice, so I’ll put a video up soon.

GDI Gaurd towerIts a long way down


4 Responses to “The Con of Cat Ba”

  1. Amy Hutchings October 24, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I am incredible jealous of you two. When do you head to Cambodia? I’d really love if you could meet some of my friends there – they are the kindest, most hospitable people I have ever met.

    • clarehudson October 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

      Hi Amy. I still have the address you gave me for your friends in Cambodia. Would be lovely to see them. Should be there around the 15th November. Any other places you recommend? xx

      • Amy Hutchings October 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

        There is a lot to see around Siem Reap – I would recommend Ta Phrom and Ankor Thom over Ankor Wat. It’s amazing with trees growing right through – Ankor wat is expensive £30 each of a 3 day pass (which is the minimum amount) and often full of tourists. We viewed it from a tethered hot air balloon at sunset which was incredible and much cheaper.

        If you meet Chyn he will take you to all the best places, khmer kitchen does the best amok curry, cooked in a baby coconut.

        I hope you are having the best time, really enjoy reading your blog sneakily at my desk!


  2. clarehudson October 25, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Excellent, thanks for that. Definately going to Siem Reap. Everyone seems to just mention ankor Wat, so good to know there are other better places to visit. xxx

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