Cat Ba Island | Ha Long Bay
Instead of paying an arm and a leg for a Ha Long Bay boat tour for only a couple of days you can easily catch bus and a ferry to Cat Ba Island, a beautiful island near Ha Long Bay.
On Cat Ba island you will spend a 1/4 of the price and you'll have the freedom to explore for as many days as you would like. Cat Ba Island is a lot less touristy and the waters are pristine throughout Lan Hay Bay in comparison to Ha Long Bay.
I separated from all of the people I met in Sa Pa and headed to Cat Ba island on my own. After a full day of travel and a beautiful scenic ferry/bus ride, I finally arrived to Cat Ba Central hostel where Kong greeted me with a huge smile and a big hug. I met a nice English lad and an Australian girl in my hostel and decided to tag along with them for a motorbike ride to a big hospital cave. We had some coffee at the restaurant below and then told them we would be going up to the cave. The three of us had about twenty minutes to explore the cave before it closed.
After climbing a massive flight of steep stairs up the side of a mountain we entered a steel door about four feet high and four feet wide which led into a long hallway with a bunch of rooms off each side. This hallway led into a huge cave in the back. It was apparent it was used as a hospital during the Vietnam war. There were mannequins dressed as doctors and patients, a few guards with fake weapons and soldiers.
We were in the back cave when the lights go out. My friend whistled loud and I got my phone out for a light. I was heading to the stairs when I hear the steel door shut and lock. Panic set in. I ran to the door and started screaming out of the peep hole. There was no way out. It was pitch black and we were locked in a cave that was full of too much history. We banged and yelled for about seven minutes and finally accepted defeat. We realized we had a pack of oreos, a half a liter of water and some sleeping pills. I was shaking in fear, but wouldn't give up. I started screaming again and about five minutes later, two Vietnamese men walked up and asked for our tickets. We kindly asked to please open the door. Once they finally opened it, I could breathe freely again. I legitimately thought we would be sleeping in this hospital cave all night.
We hopped back on our bikes and my friends were keen to check out another cave. We went through the gate even though we knew it was closed and I couldn't muster the strength to go in and explore with the fear of our last experience fresh in my mind. We headed to Rose's Bar after the caves for some pool and music. It was a great place to escape the torrential downpour of rain that actually flooded the streets of Cat Ba. A river was actually flowing down the street, the water came up to your knees, the locals were even baffled at the amount of rain that came down that night.
The next few days were filled with kayaking and boat tours of the islands near Cat Ba. We visited Monkey island and took in the beautiful surroundings. The sun was finally shining on the day of our boat tour. Unbelievable scenery and a must do!
Things to do:
- Do a $20 all day boat tour. This will allow you to see all the beauty around Cat Ba Island through Lan Ha Bay and all of the floating villages.
- Visit Monkey Island. Heaps of monkeys! Watch your cameras and don't bring food unless you want to be targeted by these crazy animals.
- Rent a motorbike and drive around the island. Visit the look out on your way!
- Visit the hospital cave & the other massive cave.
- Rent a kayak for $2.50 and buy some beers and snacks to kayak around Cat Ba and Monkey Island.
- Roses Bar - Dive bar with pool tables and darts. You can be your own DJ and pick the songs that play for the whole joint.
Where to stay:
- Catba Central Hostel - Kong is the best host and makes you feel right at home. Great place to meet fellow travelers and very close to everything! $7-$10/night
Where to eat:
- Restaurant under the Good Bar
- Vegetarian Hot Pot restaurant - Build your own hot pot!
- The Good Bar - Western food including burgers, pizza and more.
- The Green Mango - For a nice meal and delicious Vietnamese cuisine.
- Oasis Bar
Enjoy the amazing island of Cat Ba. It is truly an experience you cannot miss!