The island of Cat Ba can be considered as the largest island in the Bay of Long (it is located south of the bay and is 260km²). It is usually left out by 1 or 2 day tours because it is too far from Halong … Cat Ba has more than one trick in his bag!
In addition to its proximity to Halong Bay, you will also find a beautiful national park (more than 1/3 of the island’s area), some very pretty beaches as well as Lan Ha Bay (which not to be ashamed of the comparison with his big sister the bay of along).
For us it is therefore the ideal destination! Beautiful opportunities for walks, see Halong Bay on its side the least tourist, enjoy the sun (in addition January-February represents the low season on the island) … All the elements are there for us to take our time in this little corner of paradise. We will stay there for 6 days by spending the Vietnamese New Year (or Tet January 30).
How to get the island
From Hanoi it is extremely easy to get to Cat Ba. In our opinion, the best way is to take a combined bus ticket (for the city of Haiphong) – boat (on the island of Cat Ba) – bus (to the village of Cat Ba) for about 200,000 dongs per person.
You are advised against trying to get there by taking separate tickets because there is a good chance that you will be at one time or another. For the record, we came from the village of Tam Coc and tried to fend for ourselves to reach the island.
Badly took us because we finally paid about 400,000 dong per person after many difficulties. The local bus first dropped us off the city of Haiphong. So we had to take a bus and a taxi to the port where nobody wanted to sell us a boat ticket less than 200’000 dong (while the real price is up to 130’000 vnd). If you come from Tam Coc, we advise you to go to Ninh Binh and buy one of these famous combined tickets.
What to do in Cat Ba island
Of course, the main reason we came to the island was to see the famous kharstic hills. So in the village of Cat Ba, you will have many different possibilities to venture through the bays and everything is still much cheaper than in Hanoi. For example, a two-day walk through the two bays on a private junk costs $ 90 per person …
Of course you can also share the junk or take a shorter or longer ride but it’s downright cheap. In addition, the junks do not pass in the same place as the tours from Halong so you will probably be alone in the middle of this dream scenery.
On our side, we unfortunately could not ride a junk because of the Vietnamese New Year. We just had a trek in the national park and a big boat trip in the bay of Lan Ha … But as you can see in the photos, we have no reason to complain 🙂
Trekking in Cat Ba National Park
As I just told you, we combined a big walk in the National Park (18 km) with a boat ride in the bay. We found this combination rather nice because it allowed us to cross the whole park and return to the village by boat (3 hours by boat) through these incredible landscapes.
The trek in the park was really nice even if it takes a relatively good physical condition to support the successive ascents and descents through the jungle. The highight of the ballad was the climb to the highest point of the island (if you are already tired before this climb, pass your turn because it climbs dry …). From there high, we have a breathtaking 360 degree view and if the weather is discovered, the view must be simply amazing.
But you guessed it, we arrived at the top in the late morning and as often in the morning, the haze is quite persistent and spoil a little landscape. But hey, it was still worth it.
Discovery of island by scooter
There are two very good (Vietnamese standards) tarmac roads that cross the island and it would be a total pity hospital not to spend a whole day exploring the island by scooter. The pleasure of driving through such a setting is hard to describe.
It just feels free and it’s really great! You will easily find a bike for rent for $ 5 and a half full will be enough to walk every km of paved road. And as you will inevitably pass, stop visiting the “cave of the hospital”, a cave that served as headquarters and hospital for Vietnamese during the war … a cheap and friendly visit.
Enjoy the beaches
There are 3 beautiful beaches located just 1km from the village (the most beautiful in Vietnam). As we were in low season, we had the beach for us alone 😉 … There is also a small path that runs along the coast and connects the beaches between them. From the path, you will have a beautiful view of the bay (I think you are starting to understand … we enjoyed the island of Cat Ba!).
By Nam Huong