Cat Ba Island

Call it destiny, call it by any other name….but that is what brought us to this beautiful island Cat Ba.

As I told you in the last episode, due to the uncertain weather conditions, our tour itinerary was tweaked a little bit by our tour operator to accommodate as much as possible and Cat Ba island was part of that.

Cat Ba island is the largest of the islands of the Cat Ba archipelago consisting of 367 islands. This archipelago makes up the south eastern edge of Lan Ha Bay in Northern Vietnam. located 23 kms away from Ha Long city, this island is blessed with pristine beauty, forests, sea, mountains, hills, beaches and cave formations with stalactites and stalagmites.

Approximately half its area is covered by the Cat Ba National Park that is home to a diverse range of terrestrial life including the Cat Ba Langur. This is part of the UNESCO Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve and along with this , shares the unique scenic beauty of the Ha Long area thus making it a very attractive tourist destination.

Visitors can choose to relax on the beaches, trek through the tropical rain forest or explore the mangroves and the unique cave formations seen here. Millions of years of geological tectonics have created the Trung Trang caves here where we are headed today.

Our Trip

Taking a boat from beside our junk boat, we travelled for about 30 minutes before we reached Cat Ba island. From there, after a short walk, we boarded a bus that drove us uphill through some winding roads and tropical rain forests.

The jetty at Cat Ba Island.

Our guide in the caves with the bus that drove us uphill to Trung Trang Caves

The tropical rain forests through which we drove uphill.

And finally, we reached the Trung Trang Cave

The path leading to the caves

A walk of a little over a kilometre through a pathway led us to flight of stairs.

The stairway to the caves

At places on the stairway were landings from where we could admire the mountains and forests.

The landing on the stairway that highlights the mountains and forests around

And finally we reached the cave entrance.

Once we reached the cave, our guide instructed us to strictly remain together and follow him. He also warned us of the slippery nature of the rocks at places. At many places, the passage was very narrow and short and we had to manoeuvre ourselves carefully. At places there were lights in the cave too.

Since description will not do justice to the beauty of the caves, let me just leave you with some pictures….

At the cave entrance

Some pictures of nature’s art work

At places, we could see the water trickling down the side of the rocks, the process which over thousands of years has shaped these rock formations.

Water trickling down the rocks.

And a shrine for the creator!!

One of the old exits where the steps have been damaged

By the time we walked through these caves, we were sweating due to the hot humid weather outside and the site of the exit was welcome…

The stairway leading to the exit.

Wiping our sweat and a little tired, we walked towards the exit and the bus awaiting us. But the views of cave interiors were really worth the sweat and toil!!!

Boarding the bus, we reached the jetty from where we boarded the boat that took us to Ha Long city jetty and from there we were on to the bus to the airport to fly out to Danang that evening.

Enroute, we visited a pearl factory and saw interesting live demonstrations of pearl embedding and harvesting,

A short description of the birth of a pearl.

The oysters are harvested from the ocean bed and kept alive. A small bit of tissue is embedded into the live oyster which is opened very delicately. The oyster is then closed and kept in a metal mesh which is then returned to the water for a few months. The embedded tissue acts as an irritant and the live oyster secretes some juices which cover the embedded tissue and gradually the size of the pearl increases. After a few months, the mesh is lifted out and the oyster is opened up very delicately and the pearl is harvested.

The entire process requires deft and delicate hands and long incubation periods which explains the high cost of these pearls.

Some pictures…

Different varieties of oysters and pearls at the factory

Opening up a live oyster

Embedding tissue into an oyster

Embedded oysters ready to return to the sea bed.

A short video on the birth of a pearl…harvesting an oyster

After the demonstrations we were invited to the showroom where some of us did some pearl shopping and we returned to the bus.

After a long drive we were dropped off at Hanoi airport and we took the flight out to Danang. See you next week at Danang. Till then, keep your likes and comments coming in. Do subscribe and give your feedback too!