As I run down the little hill and around the bend in the soft drizzle, I feel completely overwhelmed. In front of me, a little ways into the stormy ocean, are what look like pieces of mountain floating in the sea. Rough and high and breathtakingly beautiful. The little piece of beach is just about covered under the rough high tide. Loungers under palm umbrellas are the only indication that this must be a resort hotel. Fancy one. That, however, hides behind the hedge. To either side of it there is nothing but nature. Stunning, stunning, stunning!!!
I run towards the hotel staff at the gate to ask where the reception is. Because they speak no English and I am dripping with sweat, they direct me instead to a path that I would never have found otherwise. A wooden walkway hugging the side of the hill, all ocean on the other side, lures me further and further away from the place I feel we have to move into that very day. No buildings along the way and no people either. Only much later does the path dead end on another beach. By now it is raining rather hard, so I turn around to search for the reception I never found.
We arrived on the island of Cat Ba the day before and spent our first night in the Full Moon Party Hotel. It totally lives up to its name and it is more of a backpackers hostel than a hotel. By the morning we are very ready to move on. While the rest surf the net to look for other accommodation, I stumble upon heaven down the hill.
Finally at reception, I discover two things. The place is way above our budget and it currently has a special for the exact time we would want to stay there. Not that the special is good enough to bring it down to our budget, but my heart is singing. I know this gorgeous piece of earth was created just for me.
For the next few days a storm rages so badly that none of the boats can go out to sea. We ride it out in comfort and luxury overlooking the ocean. My heaven down the hill has a fabulous gym for me (since there would be no outside running in this weather) and a lovely big pool for the kids. Life is good!
We end our Cat Ba adventure with a cruise through Ha Long Bay in perfect weather. What a spectacular experience! Exactly what we hoped for. We lounge on the deck, kayak between the floating islands, enjoy delicious Vietnamese cuisine and swim in the emerald green ocean. Our kids are, of course, the first ones to jump from the top sundeck of our boat. The rest of us soon join in. Heaps of fun. Swimming to a deserted beach is another highlight. It is easy to see why Ha Long Bay is a world heritage site. Unspoilt nature at its glorious best.
Two bus rides and a speed boat in between deliver us back to Hanoi where we hop on an overnight train to Hue. As we lie on our hard bunks reminiscing, I feel very loved and very blessed.
– Mariza –