Cat Ba island is mostly made up of nature preserve and very few roads. The only way to get around the island is by motor bike, so of course David and I had to see the islands for ourselves. You can walk up to anyone on the street and negotiate a day rental for about 100.000 VND or $5, but of course try to negotiate it lower, they will always rent for lower. We rented one motor bike for the day, as everyone knows I’m not the driver….ill take shotgun any day….and just like that we were off to explore the island.
Cat Ba has three beaches, but due to the weather (overcast and a bit cold) we weren’t going to be lounging in the sun here all day. Instead we took off to the nature preserve, after filling our tank with petrol. We also learned the hard way that buying petrol off the street from locals costs upwards of three times more then the petrol pumps (about 30.000 VND or $1.50 per liter and a half).
The ride around Cat Ba is so beautiful. Green mountains on either side and endless mountains in the front. The misty skies also add to the the drama of the mountains, but do lend them selves to a cold motor bike ride. We also learned that the hard way.
Our second day we decided to head to the Cat Ba national preserve with a fellow traveler we met on the island. We rented our motos and headed to the park (more appropriately dressed in pants this time).
The park offers many hikes of varyin length, some of them all day treks across the island where I only imagine you take a fairy back to town. We opted for the little shorter hike up to the peak of one of the mountains in the very center if the island. The first part of the hike is stairs that vertically climb the mountain, no zig zagging up the face….only straight up.
At the top of the mountain is an old rusted look out tower. From the bottom the tower doesn’t look too tall but as you climb, a little bit if vertigo starts to set in. And of course the “oh shit this tower is old and rusty” feeling grows with each step.
At the top the view is breath taking and your knuckles are white from grabbing the handrail with all your life. Ironically there is also a sign saying “danger no climbing” used as a floor board at the top. Whoops too late. We take our very quick photos and carefully made our way back down to let the next set of Trekkers take their photos.
We notice on the other side of the tower is a small bushwhacked path and decide to see where it goes. The path requires some small climbing and swimming through thick bamboo brushes, but the path leads to another breathtaking view at the slightly taller next peak. We are able to sit on the peak unbothered by other tourists and take in the mountains and jungles on all sides.
On our hike back down the mountain…why is coming down so much harder then coming up?…David spots our first monkey sighting. It is the very endangered Cat Ba langar,which inly resides on the island. It is a black monkey with a white face and sadly there are only about 55 left on the whole world. There is a langar fund on Cat Ba where tourist can buy caps and tshirts…so hopefully that money actually goes to protecting the species.
After the hike we explored our first cave and then took a ride along the coast. We also happened along an active construction site where they were dynamiting the side of the mountain right into the road. We cleared that area as quickly as we could. Riding around the island you see how much development is going on. Constructions sites with giant billboards for golf courses, giant resorts and lots of tourism. As I had said this island is going to change to something completely different very soon.
It has been hard to keep up with the blog posts everyday. But more adventures from Cat Ba island to come. Until then….
David & Morgan