Cat Ba Town is tiny. The main tourist area with restaurants and hotels is three streets, none a mile in length. The longest runs along the waterfront lined by narrow tall, greying hotels.
The two other streets that go inland, abruptly end where the black limestone and green jungle cliffs explode from the sandy flats.
The man downstairs at Cat Ba Palace Hotel makes us a thermos of hot water for coffee, while I buy some Coke Zero and small canned iced coffee across the street for $.50 each. It’s 6am and the shop owner is just opening. I have to help him unwrap and unlock the soda refrigerator he runs on the street.
Supposedly we are leaving on the boat today. The cyclone hit land and should have cleared the area. The weather doesn’t look great though and after a few nice hours in bed we walk to Cat Ba Ventures for the update. It’s not good. The boss hopes we can leave at noon, but doesn’t sound optimistic. The surge from the cyclone is rough and the harbor police are keeping the tourist boats in.
A cute little coffee house appears to have decent western breakfast. The kids get banana and chocolate crepes, but the crepe is really scrambled egg. Miraculously Emma eats hers. Lily passes. Amanda gets an oily omelette that’s filled with garlic and it instantly gives her terrible stomach pains. Can’t judge a book by it’s cover.
The update soon gets worse: ‘6pm is the earliest we can leave’ says the owner. I don’t think he’s bluffing, the climbing company we organized a tour with also cancelled everything today. Truth or not, we were supposed to leave Ha Long bay tomorrow for Hanoi. If we skip that and stay, we might get one night in on the water at the cost of our day in Hanoi. And though we don’t think anyone is outright lying to us, it’s hard to know what the real truth is and if there is more information that would help.
Amanda is really feeling shitty now, and Emma and I go out to buy her a sprite and see if we can find a place that can do mountain biking for the day. We strike out swiftly. Both places that Lonely Planet says does biking no longer offer the service. I guess it wasn’t popular.
Amanda has a great idea of finding a resort with nice water slides and a pool that we can go to – the pictures look great. But the tour agent at our boat company says the slides no longer work. Hopes dashed again.
We decide, perhaps against better judgement to stay one more night on the island, and skip our day in Hanoi for a chance to get out on the water. And Amanda books us at a nice, not cheap resort to stay called Cat Ba Sunrise Resort. At least we can feel a little luxury and hope for the best.
Since we are staying, I try to re-book the rock climbing in hopes that we can do the activity I’m most excited about. “We’re sorry, we can not rebook you for tomorrow’s rock climbing – it’s full’, says Asia Outdoors. They seem nice, but I wish they had told me it would fill up when they canceled the tour earlier. I guess I should have asked but I’m still annoyed.
And then the skies begin to downpour, the kind of tropical unleashing of water that leaves you instantly drenched. I stand there in the rain on the main street of Cat Ba, water dripping down my face. This section of our trip is fucked up. I just want some adventure.
I wish I could report that the rest of the day goes better. We have a few nice moments in the resort pool and the restaurant food is edible. Amanda starts to feel better.
But we’re stuck indoors, the wifi is weak and even the satellite TV is on the fritz. In an ominous moment, Amanda says ‘I want to step outside, and look at our beautiful view.’ As soon as she does, a huge thunder crack booms, and she scurries back inside.
We’re not sick, robbed, lost, or in danger. Considering everything we have ever tried and done, we are fortunate travelers. I don’t ever forget that. Still, when you fast travel as we have to, these lost days hit you harder.
I fall asleep at 8pm, early, hoping to restart tomorrow and get better luck.