Getting to Cat Ba Island was a long string of different transport methods. First, a moto-taxi to the bus station. Then a bus to Ha Long Bay. Then another bus to the dock, where a boat was waiting. Finally, a third bus from the port on Cat Ba to the town. On the way down we met an Australian couple, Andy and Krystal, who were returning to Cat Ba for a 3rd time in as many years. They had just come from climbing at Tonsai Beach, where the place we’d stayed at in March was going for 250 Baht a night, down from the 400 we’d paid while we were there. Andy was climbing at a level close to Jody’s while Krystal and I were close, though she didn’t do any lead climbing. They also had gear, meaning if we climbed with them we wouldn’t have to rent.
We found a place pretty quickly along the main road. Many places were offering room in the 8-15$ range, some with dazzling views. Our room was on the 5th floor with an ocean view. There was no elevator, no A/C, but Cat Ba wasn’t as hot as southern Vietnam, and sometimes the hot water didn’t work. But seriously, for 6$ a night (3 each), it was hard to complain.
The next 2 days we climbed. I managed to climb most of a 6b (about 5.10b) and finished a few 6a’s. The one climb I lead was late in the day, and by the time I was done it was dark and I shaking so bad I couldn’t even make my anchor. Fortunately Jody was able to climb up and clean the rock quickly. For lunch both days the people who lived just below the crag made us this HUGE delicious meal. It was hard to get up and climb afterwards, so we’d spend some quality time in the hammocks nearby before heading back out.
The 3rd day wasn’t good. I was still kinda shaky from the day before. In addition to the lead climbing I’d manage to damage the motorbike we rented, which wasn’t doing anything good for my self esteem. Jody didn’t wake up in the happiest of moods either. Plus it was cold and rainy. We took a walk to the nearby beaches, which were tranquil and deserted. I was really hoping to go swimming in the ocean with Jody, clearly that wasn’t going to happen. Jody then left for the crag for the roast goat they were having, and I stayed in our room, feeling tired and needing a break.
The next day greeted us with more cold and rain. We had opted to take a boat ride out around the islands, so it worked out nicely for a non-climbing day. We had 2 other couples with us. We did some kayaking around the coves and islands when the rain didn’t keep us hiding in the boat. For dinner that night the 6 of us headed to the Green Mango, one of the best (and most expensive) restaurants in town. The food was very, very good. There was a resident kitten that came up to visit us a few times
Our final full day was sunny. Andy and Krystal weren’t feeling up to climbing, so it was just the 2 of us. Many of the other climbers in town had gone deep water soloing, but I wasn’t interested. We ended up being the only people at the crag that day. I did another lead climb and felt a lot better about my leading abilities. Note to self – only lead very easy routes to get my confidence up. There’s no point in trying to lead a 5.9 if all I’m going to do afterwards is feel shitty that I didn’t make it up.
As much as we didn’t want to leave, after 5 full days we were heading back to Hanoi to catch a train to out final Vietnamese destination, Sapa.
(We were in Cat Ba April 22-28)