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

Destination Vietnam | Ninh Binh day 2

After the noodles broth for breakfast we went trekking for about an hour. We walked in a small road surrounded by limestone and a river with lotus flowers.

We were heading to a place located two km away of Tam Coc. There, we did a paddleboat tour similar to the previous day. The tour included going through grottos and of course enjoying the beautiful scenery made mostly of limestone karsts. Below are the pictures.

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After the boat tour, we went for Continue reading

Destination Vietnam | Ninh Binh day 1 I am off to Ninh Binh, a city located in Northern Vietnam, just few hours south of Hanoi. It is a quick get away from the capital, but I’ve decided to go there with the same travel agency (Ethnic Travel) I used in Mai Chau buying the 2-days/ 1 night package. This travel agency in Hanoi is known (supposedly) for doing things off the tourist track including a better experience of the local life. I look forward to visiting Ninh Binh, not so much the city itself but rather the surrounding area; I heard the scenery is amazing.

The trip from Hanoi took 2.5 hours. I arrived around noon and had lunch at a restaurant with Ok food (not worth any pictures). After the lunch, I went for boats ride in two different rivers. The first ride was about the daily life of the inhabitants along the river. An old Vietnamese dude drove the motorboat. He was very excited about showing me the scenery, and even let me drive; I’ll realize later that was to pump the tip up. Pictures are below.

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The second boat tour was in another river and was more about the landscape as well as going under grottos. This time I was in a rowing boat driven by an old lady who paddled for an hour plus non-stop – Simply amazing! Oh yeah, the sight also was amazing just see for yourself.

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After the second ride, it was getting dark, my guide and I went to the homestay situated in a small village forty minutes away of Ninh Binh. The homestay was more like a lodge, which was a bit different from where I stayed in Mai Chau. Indeed, I didn’t see the local family it was really more like a hotel – very disappointing. That being said the location was great. Although it was already dark and I could not capture any pictures I got to see the daily routine of the Vietnamese by late afternoon in a small townSimilarly to the Western countries it consisted of kids cycling back from school, old folks playing some kind of dice game with a TV nearby showing some local shows. On the road, I‘ve also met farmers bringing back their chickens, cows, the latter making sure to leave their traces; there were also a lot of workers drying rice on the floor (pictures below). Last but not least I can only remember the countless number of scooters on the road and the noise that goes with it.

After the dinner, I went back to my room hoping for a more exciting and adventurous next day.