After docking in Ha Long Bay City, we didn’t want to head back to Hanoi yet, and booked a hostel on Cat Ba Island. According to Google, the ferry ride is about an hour long. So, we hopped in a taxi to get to the ferry port. He had a different agenda, however. He dropped us off at a small shop near the port, and a snake of a woman tried to scam us into buying a speed boat, and then lied that the next ferry left at 3pm, instead of the 1:30pm time that the online site said (it was a couple minutes after 1pm at that time). We waited for the 3pm ferry, and when she realized she lost, she let us know there actually is a ferry at 1:30pm and we had a couple minutes to run and catch it. Nice try, lady.
The ferry ride was a short 45 minutes, but then had to take a 30 minute cab to the main city at the other end of the island. It is not the easiest place to travel to. Finally, we made it to our hostel, the Central Backpacker’s Hostel. It was cheap, had free breakfast, a nice pool, and absolutely terrible food. Our dorm room had 10 beds, and each beds were also wrapped in plastic to eliminate the chance of bed bugs, meaning every time anyone moved a muscle while sleeping, the whole room heard. That wasn’t the worst part, though. One tough guy snored louder than anyone in the whole world, and when he fell off his bed (hahaha), he moaned and groaned about it so that everyone would wake up too. Then he proceeded to turn his light on for the rest of the night, and continue to snore. Great guy. If you can’t tell, we are pretty tired of hostel living.
Anyway, the island itself is magical. In the past couple years, tourism has aided the explosion of the town. The locals here are incredibly happy and friendly, and the town is bustling with people selling and buying all sorts of goodies, from banana shirts to eclectic jewelry. Per usual, we found a restaurant that we love and never cheated on it. Mona’s Cafe. It is a rooftop overlooking the city and bay, with relaxing music and the creamiest milkshake-esque smoothies ever made.
The majority of the island is inhabitable (right now) due to the limestone rock that forms the island. We hopped on a motorbike, and explored the beautiful green scenery. This was actually due to an attempt to find the island’s peak for a hike, Ngu Lam Peak, and failed for a while, thus driving all over.
The hike was amazing. The trail winds through various routes in the jungle, so it wasn’t packed since there is not one set way to reach the top. There were about 6,000 mosquitoes and flies swarming at one time though. Coupled with the humidity and heat, we looked good when we finally reached the top. You can see the entire island from the peak. It is stunning.
After a nice shower and pool time, we motorbiked to another hike closer to the city limit, Cannon Fort. It is a memorial to the war trenches and lookout used during the war. Being a lookout, we were able to see the entire bay, and watch the sunset dipping into the ocean.
Once our quick two days were up, we were heading back to Hanoi. But, it was quite the trip. We left our hostel at 8am for the ferry port, and were swarmed by Chinese women traveling together that wanted pictures with Chase and I. They were obsessed with how tall Chase is. 🙂
Anyway, here is a breakdown of our travel day. A 30 minute taxi from the hostel to the ferry. A 45 minute ferry ride. A 20 minute taxi from the ferry port to the bus station (where the second we got out of the car, a man snagged us and said the bus to Hanoi was leaving. we sure as hell hopped he was telling the truth as we got on). A 5 hour bus ride (that stopped randomly to pick up passengers, but was surprisingly comfortable). A 30 minute taxi ride to our Airbnb in Hanoi. Whew, quite the day.
We have a couple ideas in mind for Hanoi, but the majority of the time, we plan on relaxing.
By the way, there are not as many cats on Cat Ba Island as you’d think.