Lan Ha Bay is like the younger sister of Ha Long Bay. It’s not as well known, and so it’s a cheap alternative to the well known Ha Long Bay. Yet, when you’re looking at them, I’m certain you wouldn’t be able to tell me how they differ. Seriously, it’s just a shipping channel that splits them.
So, if you’re after a budget option, Lan Ha Bay is definitely for you.
And for that, you’ll need to make your way over to Cat Ba Island (super easy from the Ben Binh ferry port in Hai Phong… Unless, like me, you have a bicycle).
I came to Cat Ba Island for just a few short days so that I could see the limestone karsts that nearby Halong Bay is known for. I ended up staying 10 days. I couldn’t leave the place.
While I ultimately spent a lot of this time chilling out, watching over the amazing view from my hostel, or relaxing on the beach, I did get the opportunity to see a lot of the different sights around the island, and so I thought I’d fill you in on just what I did while there.
This is the thing EVERYONE comes to Halong Bay for, right? So obviously I had to do one. And I didn’t want to just settle for a day on the water – I wanted to sleep out there.
From Cat Ba, things aren’t quite as straight forward as Halong Bay (there’s a lot less people around, especially in October apparently), and so when I first enquired about a cruise, I was told it’d be super expensive just for me. Theoretically, if you’re in a group, you’ll probably see prices range from about $20 USD for a quick day trip to over $100 USD for an overnight trip.
The cruises can include a range of things from rock climbing, kayaking or even a stop by Monkey Island. Be careful though – I heard plenty of stories about people booking tours but not getting everything that was promised.
In the end, that’s why I opted for my cruise with Asia Outdoors and I’d say it was pretty epic.
Head over here to read more.
Cannon Fort was a last minute trip for me. I headed up there on a motorbike just to make further use of having it for the day. Given how hot I got just walking around at the top, I think riding up is the best idea – it’s a pretty steep hike otherwise.
Cannon Fort is a super interesting area to visit – you can see old bunkers and helicopter landing stations built into the island from the previous wars. This was actually a favourite spot for me.
If nothing else, the view from here is stunning and makes the trip worth it.
Check out my photos from the fort here.
Cat Ba Island was actually once a fairly strategic lookout point during the war (hence Cannon Fort), but that also meant there was a lot of bombing around the place. This led to the construction of Hospital Cave. If it isn’t clear, those nifty Vietnamese built themselves a hospital… In a cave! Ingenious.
It’s quite impressive how it’s done, however, there’s little to explain things if you go in without a guide. Without a guide, you’ll essentially be wandering through a multi-level cave building with a whole heap of empty rooms. Get a guide guys (you’ll get offers at the entrance).
The cave is located on the same road out to the national park, so getting there can be tricky. Again, I found a motorbike the easiest (and most fun) way of doing the trip. You’ll be paying 15,000 VND to get in.
Tha National Park on Cat Ba Island takes up a whole heap of the islands land, so I couldn’t not pay it a visit.
Since I love a good view, I made my way up to the peak, arriving there as a hot and sticky mess. The views were so worth it. It’s stunning up the top, and gives you a real appreciation of just how big this island is!
If you’re keen on seeing the roof of the island for yourself, check out my detailed post here.
No island would be complete without it’s beaches!
Cat Ba basically has three main beaches that you’d take a swim in. They’re each located within walking distance of Cat Ba Town, and are all (sadly) attached to resorts. But don’t let that turn you away; it means there are cocktails ready for you after a quick dip!
My favourite beach was No. 3. It was much cleaner than the other two, and had the added bonus of being closest to town (and just down the road from my hostel).
Getting There and Accommodation
If you’re coming from Hanoi, the easiest way is to get the bus + boat + bus ticket that you can probably buy at just about all the hostels and hotels. This would set you back about 220k VND.
If you’re like me, and a bus is no option because of that little bicycle you’re carrying around, then you’ll need to make your way to Ben Binh ferry port in Hai Phong. I spent two days riding here, and then caught the super slow boat (three hours) over to the island after paying 150k VND for my ticket and another 100k VND to take the bike over (see how it’s more expensive than coming from Hanoi?). If you can, get the speed boat through the Cat Ba Island Resort and Spa – they charged me 180k VND to get back to Hai Phong, with an extra $50k VND for the bike, and only took an hour. If you’re with a bike, make sure it’s a boat going directly to Cat Ba Town!!
As for accommodation, I stayed / had friends stay in a few places:
Read More at: Vietnam Travel
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