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Cat Ba, Vietnam

Updated: Apr 25

I got picked up by the bus to Cat Ba and grabbed the front row seat with the best view and there were 3 guys in the back already and then 3 girls joined that were obviously American but younger and obnoxious so I didn’t even try talking to them. We made a few stops along the 3 hour journey and there was this family that sat behind me with a cute baby and her big brother dressed in a Spiderman outfit. Then we went on this ferry on the bus with the sunset in the background which was cool and I got dropped off at my bungalow hostel (outside of the main town) when it was approaching dark. It was somewhat quiet as I walked up to check in at the front desk. The hostel was larger than expected with a bar area/pool/restaurant and then a whole other section with a restaurant and the bungalows above. As the receptionist took me to my room, I was so happy to see that I had the coolest bungalow room with the view of the bay and flashing lights and there was some type of party going on at the hostel with these younger Vietnamese students (which I later found out from the manager that it was some type of school graduation or reunion). I had gone down to get dinner at the restaurant and the lady working didn’t speak English when I was asking about the menu so the manager came by and she could speak English (though originally from India) and then she came and sat with me and we chatted for a bit about India and my plans there. She was nice enough to offer to help me with any bookings or train reservations for when I'm in India, especially as she was saying this time of year is high season so may need to book far in advance...she eventually set me up with her brother who assisted me in my train tickets. After the party wined down a bit, I went up to bed as I was tired and woke up in time for breakfast, before 9am which is super early for a hostel in my opinion. It was a cloudy morning with grey skies but still an awesome view of the bay with all these fishing boats and houses and limestones here and there popping up from the ocean in the background. Then I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, if I wanted to go kayaking or just relax so I decided to relax and walk to the beach. I’m glad I did because it wasn’t far and there was a cute trail/walkway along the cliff of the beach that you could take to the other beaches. As I was told, there was construction going on at the second beach so I decided to walk back to the closer one with no construction and ordered a fresh coconut at the mini bar/restaurant in front of the beach as I let the rain pass. Then the sun finally started coming out so I lied down after chatting with my friend on the phone and relaxed as the sun popped in and out. It was a beautiful view with not many people around so I was happy and then realized I forgot my charger cord so I relaxed a little longer before walking back to my hostel to get my cord and go pee. Then I ordered spring rolls at the same restaurant for lunch as I watched all these foreigners appear. That afternoon, I relaxed a little more before heading back to my hostel for sunset. I ordered a beer and sat at the top of this cliff that I had seen earlier in the day with a chair at the very top and it was just a perfect sunset with the perfect view and I enjoyed watching the sun set against the water and limestones with fishermen coming in and out. This was something I had never experienced before and I really enjoyed it. I was ready to shower and get the sand off so I went back to my bungalow and then got some dinner (grilled fish) as these Europeans played pool and in the background was Karaoke. There’s something about Karaoke that they’re obsessed with here, constantly singing and playing from their boats with loud speakers…will forever remind me of Cat Ba, it’s literally nonstop at night and has the same melody every time….la la la laaaaaaaaa, na na na naaaaaaaaa. I was journaling outside my bungalow when the lady next door to me came back to her room and we started chatting. She, Grissel, mentioned that she was going to go hiking at the national park the next day so I told her I would possibly join her depending on the weather.

We both met at breakfast at 9am and talked about our backgrounds (she’s originally from Mexico but has been living in Paris for the past 10 years). I decided to join her since I didn’t really feel like going kayaking by myself and I’m so glad I did. We spit a taxi there which was 180 bat and had to pay 80 bat entrance fee which is I guess typical in Asia, and then it took about an hour to get to the top of the mountain trail. The hike wasn’t that hard but steep at times and I could feel my right knee bother me a little so took it slow as she took tons of pictures.. The view at the top was absolutely gorgeous with all the capped mountains near and far in the distance...I’m so glad I went because of the view and also the exercise that I desperately needed - it felt great to get my heart rate up again. We took pictures at the top and then headed back down so we could get to the beach in time since it was a sunny day. We got to the beach early afternoon and I decided it was time to get in the ocean for the first time since my motorcycle accident, since my wounds were healed and it had been 2 weeks. It felt amazing getting in the ocean and swimming again, the only issue was my right ear hurt and I could feel that there was still a hole for sure. I was upset that it hadn’t healed on its own yet as it had been almost 5 months since the dive in Panama. I told myself I really needed to make it a priority to close it up once this trip was over as I don’t want any hearing loss damage..scary stuff. Anyway, Grissel and I had a lovely afternoon at the beach and then also shared a beer at sunset. Then we showered and took a stroll towards town to get dinner at the restaurant she had gone to the night before since the hostel was dead and we wanted to be around more people. I’m glad we did because we ended up sitting next to this mom and son from the UK where the son had moved to Hanoi 2 years ago and started a moped business and the mom was visiting for a couple weeks. He had also done a year and a half backpacking trip around the same age as me and we were chatting about our pet peeves with backpacking and both agreed on the same things, it was a lovely convo. All the while, I had ordered a Vietnamese styled pancake where the waiter showed me how to roll it up with rice paper (it had shrimp and beef or pork in it) and it was delicious! We all chatted a litle more before Grissel and I walked back and chatted up on the bungalow rooftop, listening to Karaoke of course before going to bed. I had to be up for my bus back to Hanoi by 8am and then had to catch a flight to Cambodia that afternoon.

It amazed me that I was hoping to meet someone the first day I arrived at Cat Ba and thankfully it ended up working out in the end, having a fun filled sunny last day there with Grissel, who I would possibly be meeting up again in Thailand (I did!). I was getting a bit nervous because the bus was really late of course, but I was finally on my way back to Hanoi and I didn’t have cash so needed to get cash as soon as we arrived to pay for the bus. The bus company dropped me off at the main office along a busy highway and thankfully the lady working in the office brought me to an ATM that didn’t work after multiple times but ended up using Paypal.. so it worked out fine. Thinking I needed to get to the airport in a rush (which I really didn’t), I booked a Grab quickly and was on my way with 2 hours to spare. I ordered my last pho at an airport restaurant called Pho 24 after checking in and so glad I was able to casually enjoy my last meal there, and then headed to my gate for a coffee. My flight was delayed but I had found a nice relaxing area with lazy boy chairs as I charged my phone and did some research for about an hour.

There was this American girl from Montana who had asked me about the little area we were sitting in and if it was okay for her to sit there.. I told her I hadn’t a clue and she was the most obnoxious mid-30 year old lawyer who would talk to anyone she could and was so loud. Turns out that she ends up sitting right behind me on the flight and bumps my chair literally every 5 minutes, it was the worse situation, I had never experienced someone moving behind me that much. The funny thing is I didn’t realize it was her at first because when I looked around a couple of times to try to hint that the movement was bothering me, I didn’t really get a good look at the person’s face. So at the end of the flight when everyone got up, she placed her hand on the top of my seat and literally pulled my hair as I looked up and she said “oh sorry” as if she hadn’t a clue. Like what? It’s common sense (to look before placing your hand somewhere), I don’t get it. It’s just kind of person I was not in the mood to be around, but unfortunately had to hear her voice yet again as we were filling out visa paperwork, of course talking to everyone being like “wow you guys are hilarious.” On top of that, the visa situation in Cambodia was interesting...everyone fills out 2 sheets of information and has to pay $20 US. It was a whole step by step process as your passport gets passed to like 10 different officials before you get it back and then have to stand in another line to get stamped and then baggage claim also took forever. Things already started to seem complicated in Cambodia and I had just arrived.

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