Cat Ba is Halong’s island neighbour, and has become a popular alternative destination. They share the same water -although Cat Ba belongs to Haiphong- and the same majestic beauty rising up out of it. We went to Cat Ba island for three days, to see the great limestone karsts that are so iconic to this part of the world. We were not disappointed.
The island itself is covered in forest, with a small town on the south east coast. The town is nothing to shout about, providing business for locals and supplies for tourists. The front is rammed with seafood restaurants, and late in the evening, bars open up. A short scenic walk takes you to the beach over the hill, good for a chill out before or after the days activities. The beach isn’t really postcard material, but it was enough for us.
Lounging on the beach wasn’t the reason we had come, so we booked ourselves a boat and kayak trip. There are a fair few companies organising trips, which range from kayaking, to private boats, to yoga. On our boat we had a full days kayaking, with lunch in the middle. It was magical, and good to get active again. We paddled through the endless sea of rock in our little group, tucking into lagoons, past floating houses and along the hidden waterways. At some points, we rounded rock and saw open sea, empty and calm. It looked like the edge of the world, as if we could just plop off the end. Back through the bays and we go to the main boat. People from our group were doing Open Water Solo*, so we watched them for a while. Even from my kayak safe below, I felt the heavy tread of fear on my bones. We kayaked all day, til we were knackered, then left the group to stuff our face with dinner. Rather than a boat tour, kayaking and other activities mean you can really get in amongst the rocks. From the water, you can appreciate their size, and get to places a boat can’t. Fantastic day in a fantastic location.
Cat Ba island is cheap and easy to get to. If you’re looking for beaches, culture, temples, good food, look elsewhere. Perfect stop on the travellers route, giving an inside route into natural beauty, but certainly not a holiday hotspot.
*Open Water Solo is rock climbing, without ropes. I repeat without ropes! When you reach as high as you can, turn around and jump into the sea. Simple!?!!?