Destination Vietnam | What to do in Cat Ba town?

Cat Ba is well-known for being a stop over when visiting Halong Bay; however, the island has way much to offer. I looked forward to visiting its main city, Cat Ba town, before heading back to Hanoi.

Cat Ba town is a touristic town with three beaches, Cat co 1, Cat co 2, and Cat co 3. Cat Co 1 is where any tourists can go to chill on the beach or swim in the South China Sea. The sand beach is nice but nothing especial. It’s probably the most popular beach.

Located North East to the former, Cat co 2 is a beach but also has small bungalows to rent. It is an excellent alternative if you want something different from a hotel and a few meters from the sea. Price might slightly be higher but still reasonable; you still can negotiate though. Of course, you can also go there just to enjoy the sea.

Cat Co 3 is the beach of the Cat Ba Sunrise Resort – not the most exciting one. I suggest Cat Co 1 or Cat Co 2 for fun. The good thing about the beaches is they are all link, there is road connecting the beach with of course a fantastic view of the bay. checking the beaches, I went to Cannon fort, a fort built to fight enemies during wars. It’s on a peak at 177 meters high offering visitors a chance to see old bunkers, tunnels, and helicopter landing stations. The fort also offers stunning views of Cat Ba Island, its coast, and the limestone karsts in Lan Ha Bay offshore. To get there you can rent a scooter, a taxi, or if you are a warrior and not afraid to suffer the heat and perspiration, you can walk. Regardless, the reward is great, you will be able to see the cannons, underground tunnels, gun emplacements, helicopters,  and sublime views. A small museum, part of the tour, showcases the Russian/communism propaganda, as well as the military equipment, and conditions of the army back then.

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It’s fantastic; it is a must see if you are staying in Cat Ba town for more than a day. Look at this again!

After visiting Cannon fort, I went back to the hotel for shower and food. I took the bus back to Hanoi where the next day I was flying back to Singapore.

Destination Vietnam | Cat Ba Island

My first impression of Cat Ba Island was of a ghost city. I was there in October in the shoulder season. Streets were empty with nobody to see in restaurants/shops, and if you add a grey sky to that, you can easily see how it looked a dark place. Although my first impression wasn’t far for the truth, I realized that I arrived in mid-afternoon where most of the tourists are on various tours or activities offered from Cat Ba Island. Later in the night, the town was suddenly live.

I was starving, thus looking for a spot to eat. While walking in the main street, fronting the sea, there were only two restaurants with few people inside. I decided to check-in at one of the two, the Oasis Bar. I tried the spaghetti Carbonara; the dish was good especially since I previously only had rice my entire time in Vietnam.

After eating, I had to look for a place to sleep. Since it was the low season, there was an abundance of free room; I negotiated the price down quite easily. I stayed at a hotel for 6 USD a night which included a private room with double bed, a TV, a shower, and as a little bonus a Sea view. Don’t get excited the room was just ok, few stains on the sheets, the TV signal was shaky, internet wasn’t working, but well, I didn’t care about those things. In any case, when it comes to accommodation in Cat Ba Island there is everything for everyone, from Luxury resorts with private beach to backpacking/guesthouse hotel. Just keep in mind to Negotiate!

After eating, finding a place to sleep, I was looking on what to do for the next few days in the island. In Cat Ba Island itself there is not much to do, people come here as a cheaper alternative to the various Halong Bay boat cruise tours.

I found a day tour that included Halong Bay, Monkey Island, snorkeling, kayaking, etc.  Stay Tunes to hear more about the tour.

Travel Tip | Hanoi to Cat Ba Island by bus

From your Hanoi take a taxi (motorbike will be faster and cheaper) direction Luong Yen station in South East Hanoi. The ride should not cost more than 40k if you are departing from the Old Quarter.

At the train station, go to the counter on the left-hand side when facing the bus station. If you’re lost just ask around, most of the foreigners at this station head to Cat Ba Island anyway. Go to the Hoang Long counter and buy the ticket Hanoi-Haiphong-Cat Ba.

As of October 2014 the ticket cost 220k VND

You have two buses leaving Hanoi, the first at 7:20am and second at 11:20am. Arrived at the train station at least 30 min before. I was there during the shoulder season, but I can imagine that during the peak season, it is the first arrive the first serve.

The bus is clean with air conditioning, nothing fancy, but it does the job.

(1) We left 11:20am sharp from Hanoi. The scenery is not exceptional; it consists of many factories and businesses on the road. Time-to-time the bus pass through the city, thus you’ll be able to see a bit of the Vietnamese lifestyle. Bottom line is if you fall asleep, you don’t miss much.

(2) The bus arrived at 2:20pm at Haiphong. There we left the bus with our luggage and after 20 min waiting at the station we went on to another bus that headed to the Haiphong Boat station. At that stop you can buy some food and there is also a bathroom.

(3) From Haiphong boat station, we took the speedboat to Cat Ba boat station. The journey is about 30 to 45 min; Fyi better not having motion sickness.

(4) From Cat Ba boat station, a bus brought us to Cat Ba town the final destination. There you’re on your own but expect taxi drivers/hotel managers to chase you as soon as you get off from the bus to offers their respective services. The trip, all in all, takes about 4.5 hours.

Have a safe trip