May 30, 2016 4:02PM JST
It was an early and quick day – another depressing cloudy day. After having breakfast and packing up our luggage, we were transported to a different boat. Different people served us next. Passing luggage along, we crossed over, and said good bye to our first boat people. Then, we had some light lunch and sailed to an island consisting of Cat Ba National Park, the main part of the trip that I was initially very interested in, as I am always keen to visiting national parks.
When we reached the port and dropped our belongings, both two couples and I separated ways. I wished I could join them, but I ended up joining my original group, whom I were with on the bus from Hanoi on the first day. We rode a 20-minute ride to a hiking spot in the Cat Ba National Park. Entrance ticket had to be bought and we went through a 5-min trail inward to the entrance of the hike. It was supposed to be only 30 minutes up, but the hike was quite steep with lots of steps. I didn’t mind going up, but as usual, I had trouble going down, after looking at an almost full 360-degree view of forested hills and jungles. I was the last person to go down, with another guide and the girl. My guide actually had to call this another guide to make sure I was coming. By the time I reached the bottom, fortunately, I wasn’t the last one – there was an elder couple who had difficulty going down. We waited for them then we went to our bus.
Again, I thought we stayed at same area for the night. But no, we merely stopped by their hotel for lunch, while I joined, but I got picked up later for another boat ride with the same group. I got transported to another boat to my bungalow (more like a hut) on a separate small island. Their hotel was on the main island, by the pier of the island with the national park. While I was being delivered to my hotel Money Island Resort, the rest were going to the other side of the ‘Monkey Island’ where they hanged out with the monkeys. I went to my hotel and happily discovered that the French couple was there too. Apparently, they did their own tour and did not seem to go to the hike that I did earlier. They got to the hotel that morning and had a nice nap for the rest of the day. Maybe a different tour.
The hotel was not hotel – it was indeed hut, like those ones in Fiji – they call it bungalow. Since I never tried one of those types before, I was amazed by the sight immediately. It just looked so exotic and I can feel I can live there forever
Since I had time before going on a short trip to the other side of the island, I decided to go to the observatory deck to take a look of the island and the surrounding from the high point. Climbing through stairs, I passed the bar that was part of the hotel and towards the deck. It was decorated with corals on the ground and I picked some up as souvenirs to bring back home. They were obviously laid there purposely by human hands. The view was beautiful, but due to the fact that the weather was not good, the view was not magnificent.
After climbing down towards the lobby, I made it barely, just five minutes before going on the tour. The French couple, a solo visitor from India, and I followed the guide. The climb itself was difficult – it had sharp limestone points that could cut through skin very easily if not careful. I was wearing the wrong shoes – it was not the hiking shoes since I lost one pair of the shoes before reaching the island. Since I had trouble, the Indian and I climbed together, helping each other leading the way. However, eventually we got too behind and lost them as we could no longer hear their voices. When we got to the fork where the path divided into two, I thought we were hiking to the top of the mountain, rather than to the other side of the island. We went up, as we saw other people coming down from that direction so we thought our people also went that way. I briefly talked to one of them and they noted that they were only a one-day tour to the island and go back to Hanoi that day. Smart choice, because it was definitely cheap to go there for one day since the weather was terrible. I have learned my lesson not to pre-book too early as booking last minute is usually no problem in the populous Southeast Asian touristy areas.
Eventually, after the difficult hike trying not to get ourselves hurt, we reached the top, overseeing the other side of the island, the one that goes to the jungle and the other that goes to the beach. Here, we saw my people from the earlier boat on the beach. We saw the French couple and the guide there too, and waved at them before we went down. Since it was a strenuous hike, we relaxed and took photos, and then down we went. It was notoriously more difficult going down; we had to watch our footing very carefully. By the time we almost reached the bottom, it started raining. It was lucky that we passed the pointy rocky surfaces when it was not raining. It was quite dark too when we reached the bottom and we happily went back to our bungalow and relaxed until it was time for dinner.
I arrived at the lobby early. I saw other people arriving for dinner as well. There was a family of three who stayed on the island for three days, and were definitely expecting for hot weather and nice view – it was no choice for them since they booked the hotel 2-3 months earlier, if I recall. They were disappointed – they just relaxed in their cabin having massages and drinking wine and so on. There were not many people there – the Indian and I were probably the only solo travelers. The Indian had an entire trip that was different from the rest – his plan was to sail to some other part of Ha Long Bay and continue his journey there – I did not remember what destination name he gave me, though it sounded interesting as I doubt there were many people going for that option.
The dinner was similar but less delicate than the boat. Because we shared the table with a couple of people, the food was not so wasted like those on the boat. We retired to our bungalow early and it was raining hard and glad that it was night when it was raining, otherwise, it would indeed be very miserable.