Ha Long Bay Cruise, Day 2: Cat Ba Island

The fog and rains of the prior day had lifted, but skies remained overcast and temperatures cool. The sea, however, was as smooth as glass.

After breakfast, we enjoyed a leisurely morning, taking in the majestic formations of the dozens of islands around us from the top deck of the boat. It’s hard to believe that in the tropics at sea level it can be so cold, but apparently this weather’s common for the time of year.

Around mid-morning, we transferred to a smaller boat, which took us ashore a large island with a rugged and largely unpopulated interior.

We hiked to the top of a ridge, and then ascended a rusting and rickety lookout tower for sweeping views of the island’s interior.

The trail was challenging, to say the least, following the recent rains. But we managed.

We stopped for lunch in Cát Bà Town on the southern tip of Cát Bà island. Part of our group had opted to stay on here at a hotel while the rest of us opted for a night in bungalows on a secluded beach. If the weather had been warm and sunny, I might have thought them crazy for choosing the hotel option. Given the cold and rainy weather, however, I was certainly not going to hold it against them. With that said, Lori and I never turn down a beach bungalow, regardless of the weather.

On the way to our next stop, Monkey Island, we passed through a narrow straight brimming with wooden fishing vessels and floating fishing structures.

When you start feeling out of place, you know you’re in some place unique and worth visiting. I liked being on the small, rickety old boat cruising slowly through the straight. I didn’t feel like we were disrupting the fishermens’ daily activities too much, and weren’t lingering in any one spot for too long. The route provided us with some sense of the daily lives of people here without being too conspicuous, which is always preferable to us.

Monkey Island. Aptly named, well, for it’s numerous ill-tempered monkeys.

We were told by the boat crew to stay a safe distance from the monkeys. The crew obviously knew what they were doing, and the monkeys were obviously familiar with them. Yet, a handful of passengers thought it would be fun to taunt the monkeys, and we certainly weren’t surprised to see one such woman being bandaged up due to a monkey clawing her in self defense only a few short minutes into our time on the island.

Telephoto shot from a safe distance. I’ve been around enough monkeys to know what they’re capable of.

After a hike to a viewpoint and some more time watching various passengers get their just desserts from the island’s residents, we boarded the boat and headed on to our final destination for the night: Cát Bà Sandy Beach Resort.

We really had no idea what to expect when we pulled up to the island, and certainly weren’t expecting this. If it hadn’t been for the chilly and windy weather (and cold water) this place would pretty darn close to paradise.

Parts of the resort looked like they had been here for some time, while others looked brand-spankin’ new. It’s clear that the resort is a work in progress. As always, I can’t help but wonder what this place looked like only a few years prior.

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