You are gasping of the city’s dusk and smoke; you are looking for more fresh air and an escape for a while; you are having the intention of lifting your butt off the chair? Leave your city behind and take a cruise tour in Cat Ba Bay, you will definitely bring yourself some air from the green lung of the world.
1. Cat Ba Bay – another holder of the world’s vitality
Dashingly heading to the North of Vietnam, travelers will discover another magnificent wonder of the world nestling itself calmly near Ha Long Bay, cradling all of its evergreens to the heart as dearly as it used to. In some ways of calling, it is preferable to use “bay”, but Cat Ba is actually an archipelago consisting of 367 small islands, in which Cat Ba island lying about 25 km from Ha Long Bay is related to the historic legend of Vietnamese folks.
Cat Ba Archipelago
Cat Ba Bay is more than just a beauty to be preserved. Its people praise it not only for its originality of the wild and majestic nature of natural grey mounts and infinitive green forests but its significantly high natural value as the arsenal of the world’s vitality recognized by the UNESCO. For many people, Cat Ba Bay is not just an archipelago, it is a white pearl hidden its purity in layers of dust and sand.
Amongst great numbers of amazing sub-islands in the bay, Cat Ba is the most magnificent in size and is also the largest island compared to more than 1 000 ones in Ha Long Bay. Cat Ba is also known as the pearl island owning the beauty of both history and the wilderness. The name “Cat Ba” is actually a slang of “Các Bà”, which means “The ladies”. The essence of the name is easily explained. Vietnam, as well as most other Asian countries, has numerous mysterious mists and legends. Cat Ba island is rumored or in fact, has a connection with the story of Gióng – the God of war riding with his iron horse, who helped Vietnam fought against its enemy in the past. Besides Cat Ba Island, there is Cat Ong Island and “Cát Ông” is the slang of “Các Ông” which means “The Gentlemen”. In the fight of Gióng, at the island, the gentlemen helped Gióng in fighting the enemy while on this side, the ladies were on another island to assist them. That is why the two islands were named this way.
Visiting the bay, not only can you capture the beauty of nature in your eyes, but you can also be the participant of various intriguing festivals, in which “The Fishing Village” on the 1st of April which marks the milestone when Uncle Ho dropped by the fishing village and “The Lady Temple” are two highlights of the local festivals.
2. Great time to go on a Cat Ba Bay Cruise Tour
Usually, the best time to travel to Cat Ba is in the summer from June to July because it is a great season for discovering the islands and go to the beach. However, most foreign travelers often go to Cat Ba from November to March whether local travelers usually take the tour from April to October. If you travel to Cat Ba in spring, especially at this time of the year, remember to bring along lumber-jacket in case it gets cold at night.
3. Cat Ba tour from Hanoi
If you travel from Hanoi to Cat Ba Bay by tour, there will be numerous of ways and agents for you to book from. For Cat Ba is located near Hai Phong city, which is not far from Hanoi, it will only take about 2-3 hours to get to the city. From here, tourists will travel on a cruise to the bay. Usually, people will spend about 2-3 days in Cat Ba. Normally, tour to Cat Ba Bay from Hanoi is a whole package covering you from A to Z. An ordinary tour pack will often have common timeline Hanoi-Cat Ba-Hanoi.
The price for a day tour in Cat Ba is very cheap and affordable in the variety of Vietnam tours. Some tour operators even offer a free tour for children from 1 to 4 years old and discount for children from 5. A 2-day-1-night round trip from Hanoi to Cat Ba will normally cost from 1.500.000 dongs per person. Because Cat Ba archipelago includes mostly islands, so it will be more suitable for relaxing and participating in sea-side activities than visiting all the destinations because it will be very time-consuming.
For Cat Ba, we advise that you should book a full tour package from Hanoi since the destination is archipelago so you will have to travel on a cruise a lot; a great tour guide in the trip will also be more helpful. Therefore, a tour should cover you better than traveling on your own.
However, if you still want to have the trip by yourself, you can go on a coach from Hanoi to Hai Phong and from Hai Phong to the bay. There are many coach agents around Hanoi, most coaches offer around 47 seats and the ticket price ranges from 80 000 dongs.
Coaches, you can take
From Hai Phong, there are three ways that you can choose either to get to Cat Ba Bay: travel by ferry, travel by bullet train then take a bus or coach or travel by hydrofoil boat.
For the first option, you can travel from Hai Phong to Đình Vũ harbor by taxi or car; from there, buy a ticket and take two ferry trips. The first one will begin at Đình Vũ harbor, you will then travel to Gót station in about 45 minutes. From Gót, take another ferry to Cái Viềng station and travel another 20 km by car or taxi from there to Cat Ba Bay.
Ferry from Hai Phong to Cat Ba
For the second one, you travel from the center of Hai Phong to Bính Station. From Bính, you can choose either to travel by speedboat or hydrofoil boat to the bay. For most tourists who prefer to go cheap, they will usually choose to travel by speedboat – the Hadeco with the price from 200.000 to 250.000 dongs per person. However, Hadeco only takes you to Cái Viềng station, from Cái Viềng, you must take a bus to the bay. The hydrofoil boat will take you straight from Bính to Cat Ba.
4. Cruise tour in Cat Ba Bay
As mentioned above, there is nothing much in Cat Ba except for islands, lots and lots of islands! For that reason, traveling to Cat Ba Bay is similar to a journey of exploring different kinds of islands and get yourself a good time relaxing and enjoying life as a true seaside local. Most of the tour will be traveling on a cruise from the harbor to different islands. Normally, it will take one day or two to travel to most main islands in the bay, exploring different caves and enjoy different activities at night by the sea such as dancing or camping. A cruise tour to Cat Ba Bay at day will mostly include traveling to different islands such as Cat Ba Island, Monkey Island, Cat Ong Island and so on.
In the afternoon, you can either choose to have lunch on board, they serve great seafood here with a considerable price or choose to eat out at near restaurants. However, you should have lunch on board because it is safer, cheaper but still very appetizing.
At night, you should gather around by the beach, light up the fire and have an outdoor party. Sometimes local people on the island offer fire dancing and wonderful games to enjoy at night. If you travel on special occasion, you are lucky enough to take part in some festivals.
Where to stay in Cat Ba?
Most people traveling a long day trip from 2 to 3 days will wonder where to stay when there are so many islands. If you are traveling with a travel agent, do not worry because the tour pack has all you need for accommodation that most fit the itinerary. If you tend to travel on your own, you can take a look at this list.
Catba Island Resort & Spa (4-star hotel)
As a 4-star hotel, the quality and service are worthy of its reputation. If you want a fine place for relaxation, come to Catba Island Resort.
Address: Cát Cò 1, Cát Bà Island, Cát Bà Archipelago
Price range: From $50
Monkey Island Resort (3-star hotel)
Monkey Island is a great isolated one in Cat Ba Archipelago. According to ratings, a Monkey is a fine place with great view and appropriate service for a 3-star.
Address: Beach 2, Monkey Island, Cát Bà Archipelago
Price range: From $50
Hung Long Harbour Hotel (3-star hotel)
Located near the crowded market, Hung Long Hotel will definitely bring you much joy while staying in the place.
AddressL #268, 1st April Street, Cát Bà Archipelago
Price range: From $40
Activities at night
There are many things that you can do when the night falls on Cat Ba Bay. Most people will make use of their night to walk along the beach with their lovers, family or even alone. Some even throw a party near the seashore. You can make yourself some BBQ while enjoying a night of chill.
While some want to play it safe, some want to go beyond the border. One of the must-try experience, when you travel to Cat Ba, is to rent a kayak, then sail to Lan Hạ Bay and camp there for the night.
Camping at night
If you stay near the market, you can also go to the night market nearby to get yourself some souvenirs.
In addition, you will absolutely love renting a bike for two to ride around the town. With only 50.000 dongs, you can totally enjoy a fantastic night of your own.
Going to the bar or staying at a café is a really cool activity at Cat Ba. Most foreigners enjoy this kind than the others. Despite whatever activities you choose, Cat Ba will always bring you joy along the way.
5. Destinations of great amazement in Cat Ba Bay
Cat Ba Beaches
There are lots of different beaches in Cat Ba such as Cát Cò 1, 2, 3 are the three ones located near the center, in which, Cát Cò 2 is always praised for its beauty with the pure and crystal clear water. The isolated Monkey Island is a really amazing one with a wonderful beach of deep blue water. If you stay on the island, you can visit the beach every day and you can even participate in parachuting, scuba diving and surfing here. The price for these ranges from 500.000 dongs. However, you should always remember that “safety’s first”. You can either catch a taxi or go on foot if you are near the place. It is advisory that you get to the shore before 6:30 pm because it is when the tide rises.
Cat Ba beaches
This wonderful island is a great place you should stay if you decide to get yourself a place in Cat Ba. Originally, the place is called Monkey Island because little monkeys usually come down to the beach to enjoy their day. Furthermore, if you want to enjoy diving in a nearby center, a coach will guide you with the price of 1 000 000 dongs for 30 minutes.
Lan Hạ Bay
Lan Hạ Bay is one of the most popular destinations in Cat Ba Archipelago. Especially for travelers who love some adventures and a little bit of challenge on the way, Lan Hạ will definitely a must-see destination on their way. Lan Hạ is such a wonderful place which now has still kept the pure silhouette of nature with white sand dunes, the antique and majestic limestones and ranges of mountains covering the bay. The most-chosen activity here is kayaking. People would love to take a kayak tour and sailing around the bay. Sometimes, they even stay the night camping there. Price for the whole package of a kayak tour is about $10 but if you want to take a tour to see some colorful corals, it will range around $15 to $20.
Cái Bèo Old Fishing Village
Sailing kayak from Lan Hạ Bay, you can easily get to Cái Bèo old fishing village. Cái Bèo is the oldest village in the area. This place is not so crowded or busy but the people are always friendly and so is the village. The villagers will always ready to take you for a trip to feel the peaceful life of the bay.
Cát Bà National Garden
Cat Ba national garden is one of the places that you must visit. This is exactly the center of the green lung where the world’s vitality is stored. The garden consists of nearly 1 000 floral species in which many should be highly preserved. Besides the great natural sites, you can also drop by some wonderful caves such as Trang Trung or the Bat Cave. The entrance fee to the national garden is around 15.000 dongs. With just only 15.000 dongs, what you will receive in mental value is even more.
Thần Công Fortress
Located on a 177-meter mount, Thần Công is a historical attraction which accompanied with Cát Bà people in two great fights against the French and the American in the 40s of the 20th century. Up until now, the two cannons are still being preserved and displayed for visitors. From the fortress, you can also discover many other beauties from the height of nearly 200 meters.