Monday, 28 January 2013

Christmas on Cat Ba Island

Our resort
When we were booking our Christmas and New Year trip around northern Vietnam, we didn't really consider just how much colder it would be compared to our home in the south.  People had told us it would be 'cooler' and that we might need a jacket in the evenings.  They'd also said that if we were to venture as far north as Sapa, we would probably need a coat on all day and might even see snow on the distant mountain tops.  Nothing prepared us for just how cold it turned out to be!!

We had booked to spend Christmas itself in a resort on Cat Ba Island.  We had chosen it because of its private beach, the gorgeous pool and the balcony with the seaview where we could enjoy a drink as we watched the sun go down.  The resort had all of these things and more - it was a fantastic place - but our enjoyment of it was somewhat limited by the chilly temperature!  Don't get me wrong, we had a lovely Christmas, but being in such a beautiful place and not being able to take advantage of the facilities was really disappointing!

The gingerbread church
I've already described our journey to Cat Ba through Halong Bay here.  We arrived later than anticipated on Christmas Eve feeling cold and frustrated at being delayed, but soon felt better as the friendly staff welcomed us and gave us delicious cups of warming ginger tea spiked with fresh lime and sweetened with local honey.  We just had time for a quick change before the 'Gala Dinner' in the hotel restaurant. The whole hotel was looking really festive, particularly the restaurant with a large Christmas tree, candles on every table and a huge, highly detailed model of a church made out of gingerbread biscuits.  The food was amazing and meant that we didn't venture outside of the resort for any meals during our few days on the island!  To round off a lovely evening, I, who never normally wins anything, won first prize in the ticket draw - a smart phone!!  (A particularly pleasant surprise as, making my way to the stage, I was convinced the announcer had said my prize was a 'spa foam'!!)

Cliff walk
We spent our time going for long walks and then returning to the hotel to get warm!  Cat Ba Town is not the most attractive place, but there are loads of reasonably priced bars and restaurants.  There is also plenty to see in the bay, with a colourful fishing fleet and many boats which are used as permanent homes for local residents.

Walking the other way from our resort, we were able to follow a coastal path which afforded spectacular views out to sea. 

Cat Ba's fishing fleet
We didn't venture inland to the national park - one, because of the weather and two, because there were few tourists around and the cost of a trip was unusually high.  Perhaps on our next trip to Cat Ba?

We made the return journey to the mainland by high-speed ferry to Haiphong, a dreary-looking industrial city with few redeeming features (at least, that's how it appeared through the coach windows!).


You can see some more photos of Cat Ba Town here.

2 comments:

  1. hi, thanks for this very nice and interesting post. I like your writing style, it’s quite unique.

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  2. Phuong Phuong restaurant in cat ba island
    Phone :0084313888254
    Address : No. 232 1-4 street cat ba island - viet nam
    Website:http://www.facebook.com/annazenden09
    Video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7WUWEtN6Wk
    We walked by Phuong Phuong Restaurant on our first night in Cat Ba village and decided to give it a chance and use the free WiFi.

    Our meal that night was so good that we decided to come back for breakfast the next day.

    After an amazing breakfast we knew that we had found our spot and we kept coming back every day.

    The service was always friendly and each meal was fresh and delicious.

    The owners were an older couple who would come out and ask us how our food was and smile at how many dishes were on our table.

    In Vietnam, It's best to share everything so you can try lots of different dishes.

    The owner's lovely daughter was the lead waitress and she and her two cute friends are the staff.

    We stayed in Cat Ba a full week and ate every meal at Phuong Phuong except one dinner and after that dinner we wished that we had eaten at Phuong Phuong.

    The food was the perfect fuel that we needed for long days of rock climbing.

    Our favorite dinner dishes were:
    Steamed spinach with garlic
    Vegetarian spring rolls
    Tofu with tomato sauce
    Vegetarian fried rice with egg
    Mixed vegetable fried rice with shrimp
    Fried noodles with squid
    Steamed tuna with garlic
    Fried potato with garlic

    For breakfast we tried:
    Seasonal fruit with yogurt and toast (freshly prepared fruit!)
    Pineapple pancakes
    Mango pancakes
    Pineapple / yogurt shake
    Mango / yogurt shake
    Tomato and egg omelette

    The pancakes are prepared with fruit and eggs, without syrup. Not fluffy but flat. They were great!

    On our last night we ordered the Horseshoe Crab. This was a perfect way to end our trip. The crab was prepared both as a soup and served with local herbs and spices on a plate and it was delicious.

    Phuong Phuong is not only one of my favorite restaurants in Vietnam, but one of my favorite restaurants in the world!

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