Another perk of saying in the Cat Ba Beach Resort was the incredible breakfast buffet. Our other hotels had provided us with bread and egg, but this breakfast had a full spread of omelettes, fried rice and noodles, breads, cakes, fruit and orange juice. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so I was in culinary heaven.
The resort also had incredibly fast wifi, so I was able to Skype everyone back home while enjoying a beachfront view. Sadly we had to pack up and bike over to a less luxurious hotel where we’d be staying for the next few days. This hotel was $5 a night, and it looked it. The sink pipes were broken, the towels clearly hadn’t been washed in days, and the door barely opened after minutes of jiggling the key.
Cat Ba Beach Resort had given us free passes to check out Cannon Fort, which was used during the Vietnam War to fend off the Americans. It was at the top of a misty mountain, making the empty bunkers, tunnels, and cannons feel eerie. After our fill of history, we went back to our dingy hotel and decided we could spend $3 extra a night and get a much better hotel down the road. The Sea View Hotel was luxurious compared to the other one, with an elevator, clean sheets and towels, and plenty of space.
For dinner, we sampled a freshly cooked soft shell crab and then a delicious cheeseburger (I insisted on Western food for my birthday). Cat Ba is only a small town and we couldn’t find a single bakery to get a birthday cake from, so I settled for a sleeve of Oreos and a bag of Pepperidge Farm Chessmen.
Our hotel was located in the center of all the New Years Eve action, so we strolled among the crowds, and were invited to take prime seating for the New Years performances as foreign guests of honor. The next three hours were filled with singing, dancing, and tae kwon do, which left my ears ringing from the extremely loud speakers. The Vietnamese tend to like their music loud, full of base, and at all hours of the day. To celebrate at midnight, fireworks exploded over our heads and fell into the harbor. It was surprisingly one of the best firework shows I’ve seen and went on for a solid fifteen minutes.
After the fireworks, the street bars and restaurants got the party started with loud house music, candy, and drinks for all. We were invited back to the restaurant we had dinner at and the owner sat us down at a long table with sparklers, candies, snacks, and wine. He kept coming around to fill our glasses and invited at least a dozen more backpackers to join inside for the celebration. We cheered constantly, exclaiming “Chuc Mung Nam Moi!!”, or happy new year. His adorable little daughter dragged us to the dance floor and all of us were singing and grooving to all kinds of American pop songs. Our host brought out a bottle of whiskey and continued his hospitality until late in the night. Even though the party and fireworks were celebrating the lunar new year, I secretly pretended they were for my birthday 🎂🎈