After spending the autumn traveling around South East Asia, one would start to think about where the perfect place would be to spend Christmas. Located 160 miles away from the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, or a two hour taxi plus a couple of hours on a speedboat, you can reach the picturesque Cat Ba Island. The island is situated in Ha Long Bay (Previously seen in TV programmes such as the Top Gear Vietnam Special), which is made up of an archipelago of islands with large spindly and jagged cliffs overlooking a vast expanse of water which one can see for miles any way you look.
If you are looking for a relaxing destination for Christmas, this would possibly be one of the prime candidates. The island isn’t overly busy in this peak time with many people choosing to spend the day at sea on a Castaway tour or opting to spend time in the much warmer south. Although this doesn’t mean that there isn’t much to sample on the island. Along the main road in Cat Ba town there are many restaurants and bars overlooking the seafront that remain open usually until midnight, and to the edge of the town there is a large market with stalls selling a massive variety of things, ranging from portable DVD players along with a large selection of (pirate) DVDs, which are great for watching the Christmas classics in your hotel if you get bored, to clothing that loosely resembles a Christmas jumper.
If you start to feel homesick on the day, you can go to the beachfront, which can be found in a small cove about a half hour walk out of the town, and build snowmen, out of sand. The weather will also help with your homesickness: although it isn’t overly cloudy, there is still the bite of winter, with temperatures reaching a similar level to those that Britain feels on a bad autumnal day, so remember to pack a fleece and a beanie. In the evening, many places remain open for you to find a bite to eat. Some places serve Vietnamese cuisine, usually heavily influenced by seafood, or some of the bars serve pizzas and burgers as well as a range of beers and cocktails.
Boxing Day is the perfect opportunity to spend a day motor biking around the island, or on a cruise around Ha Long Bay. Many of the restaurants and hotels have relationships with sailors and boat owners who can take groups for a trip around the bay. Most packages include stopping off at certain islands, such as Monkey Island where you have the opportunity to walk along the beach whilst being wary of the sneaky monkeys as well as climbing to the jagged peak of Monkey Mountain. You will also get the chance to kayak around some of the islands and spend some time at the floating bar, which also usually doubles up as a mini market and tobacco shop. Cat Ba Island is the perfect place to take a break from a heavy period of travelling, and is also in a prime position for you to get to almost anywhere for New Year celebrations, whether it be in central Hanoi or further afield in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur via a flight.