Unfortunately, winter is not as kind to Catba Island as it is to Halong Bay. Where the latter is graced with a mist that creates mystery and allure, the former simply gathers damp.
Cat Ba is undoubtedly meant to be a holiday town- hotels are stacked up against the jungle-clad hills, and the oceanfront promenade is decorated in fairy-light sculptures and grandiose fountains. Yet what becomes of it when no one is on holiday? On an off season visit, with no throngs of beach goers and sun chasers, the town simply looks comical- hotel names like Holiday View and Cat Ba Princess become a little ironic in the mildewed haze of March. Yet, strangely, there was something appealing about the lack of appeal, a certain style to its lack of style. And despite the town's downtrodden mood, we had a great time walking the abandoned streets, among lonely pearl stands and quiet seafood joints.