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Old July 6th, 2009, 10:52 PM
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Wink Cat Ba Bay in the evening

By Mong Binh / Saigon Times Online

When the last beams of sunlight cast over the karst islets in Cat Ba off Haiphong City, life on the bay turns lively with the chatting of locals on their boats as well as the bustle of tourist boats.

Evenings on Cat Ba Bay start with locals going on deck to cook dinner for their families, children walking around to help their parents and fishermen catching shrimp, squid and other creatures of the sea from their small boats. All is worth seeing and feeling.

After hours of hiding from the afternoon sun or touring places on the island such as Cat Ba National Park or Monkey Island, travelers leave their hotels and guesthouses in the early evening to treat themselves with breezes off the bay and the smell of the ocean as appetizers for their dinner.

Many also opt for a boat cruise that begins at the main pier and makes its way through fishing vessels on the bay.

The pleasing sounds of gentle waves clapping against the shore, the whispering of breezes over the boats and the chatting of locals soothe the tiredness of guests after a day of touring.

Boat driver Nguyen Van Huong said that a one-hour cruise around Cat Ba Bay cost around VND100,000 for a group of six people but included quick lessons about the daily life of fishermen on their boats and their techniques for catching squid.

During my stay on Cat Ba Island last month, Huong showed me one of the ways to catch squid by pointing to a small boat on which a man lit a bulb to lure squid and shrimp to his boat so that he could catch the creatures easily.

From a boat, you can see the difference between Cat Ba Island during the daytime and at night. In the evenings, lights turn on in the buildings and in the street, stirring life by the bay after a period of daytime quietness because people stay indoors to avoid the scorching summer sun.

Tables and chairs are available next to the bay for passers-by to enjoy coconut juice and other drinks while viewing the bay where lit boats dot the surface. You can make a choice of having dinner in a restaurant on the island or on a floating eatery on the bay.

Generally, a dinner on land is cheaper than on a floating restaurant where a portion of steamed shrimp, grill flower crab, sautéed fish and sour soup sells for VND80,000 or more.

It depends on how good you are at bargaining. You can buy seafood by the kilogram and have it cooked to order with a kilogram of flower crab starting from VND200,000 at one of the floating eateries. Breezes are the bonus of a dinner off the island.

You can reach Cat Ba Island by taking a Hoang Long quality bus for VND50,000 per person from Luong Yen Coach Station in Hanoi to Haiphong (two hours) and then boarding a speed boat at this northern port city to the island (one hour). The boat fare is VND130,000 per person and requires advance bookings for weekend travel.
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