The Ferry to Cat Ba was an overcrowded vessel that has seen better days, but at least the rain stopped, seas are calm, and no one got seasick. Someone kindly gave up their seat so that this old guy did not have to stand for the 40 minute cruise to the island. We tried not to think about the low life jacket/passenger ratio.
It was about a 30 minute ride from the dock to town, again someone gave up their seat for us. Total trip time from Hanoi to Cat Ba town: approximately 5.5 hours. Total trip time according to Lonely Planet guide book: 3 hours.
We stayed at Sunrise Resort for the first three nights. Very posh. Internet deal 4 days 3 nights, $85 per night with one free dinner and all free breakfasts, pool, beach, beachfront bar, top floor ocean view, quiet. Well worth the price. Only downside is that it’s about 3 km from the town center, and stairs up to the 5th floor.
We walked to Cannon Fort on Day 2. Day 3 we took an all-day motorbike tour from Mr. Zoom ($25 per person). We had a wonderful trip with Viet and Zoom who took us to see a wonderful temple along the water on a not so sturdy boardwalk. We also saw Hospital Cave where families and soldiers lived for 8 years during the American War, and hiked in Cat Ba National Park. Pete also learned to drive a motor scooter (automatic transmission). During conversation with our guide I found out that he lost 5 family members during the American War.
Took a 2 day 1 night tour of Lan Ha and Halong Bays. Six people on the boat, $128 per person from Cat Ba Ventures. It was a beautiful trip with people from Germany and France who spoke great English so we were able to share travel stories. During the cruise we kayaked through some nice grottos and lagoons, and spotted a few monkeys in the trees.
We decided to stay at a “home stay” where a local family cooks for us and the housing is traditionally Vietnamese. We had an incredible dinner. We decided to spend the next day just relaxing and Denise just painted all day in the garden.
We did stay three nights in a very nice budget hotel (Mr. Zoom’s Backpacker hostel). We had a very nice double room for $10 per night. Mr. Zoom is quite the character. He owns or has an interest in his hostel, a hotel next door that he runs with his brother or cousin (I never got that straight) named Mr. Winner, a laundry, a travel agency, and a restaurant. Ten years from now I expect that he will own half the town.
Left Cat Ba for Ninh Binh on October 19.