The happiness I was seeking in Ha Noi came in short bursts in Cat Ba.
We found a cheap hotel room and were very impressed. We had huge floor to ceiling windows with vast ocean views which made me quite happy. Unfortunately for me, Cat Ba was celebrating the anniversary of Ho Chi Minh’s visit in 1959 where he rode around on a bike for a day and camped in a tent for a night before heading back to the mainland.
In a 7 day long celebration leading up to the first of April, the residents of Cat Ba flock to the town centre, pitch tents on the main street, sing karaoke, play thumpingly loud dance music and a huge carnival set up complete with stage where Vietnamese pop stars and magicians would grace the stage. To our extreme annoyance, a large sound system was placed right out the front of our hotel. Loud karaoke played till midnight started up again at 6am the next morning. “My neck, my back” was playing several times at full blast. If only they knew what the song was actually saying! I was beginning to believe this was all part of a quite a large April Fool’s joke. The joke was on us. We put up with such loud nonsense for two whole nights before moving to a more luxurious hotel around the corner away from all the loud music, just in time for the great final night of celebration.
We spent our time in Cat Ba rock climbing and did a short 8km trek in the National Park. Chase spent another day rock climbing while I induldged in a foot massage, manicure and pedicure at one of the local beauty salons.
Cat Ba Island is the biggest island of Halong Bay, and most visitors to Vietnam would almost certainly do a Halong Bay tour. We decided against it, as the trips on offer to us that were in our price range seemed like just another packaged tour which we dont really enjoy much. I don’t think we missed out on much, especially considering the weather was miserable this time of year.
Another interesting point to note is I saw my first restaurant that served not only dog meat but cat meat also! I was very excited, surprised and grossed out by this!