When I booked my flight to Vietnam, I knew that I wanted to see the famous lime stone formations in Ha Long Bay. I had no idea where to stay, so after reading a bit in the Lonely Planet guidebook, I decided to book a bus to Cat Ba Island which was described as the quieter and nicer version of the party places that are common in Ha Long Bay.
Similar to Hanoi, the weather was cold and rainy but that also meant that the island was empty! There were barely any tourists which was a nice difference to the more touristy parts of Vietnam. I stayed in a small hostel and met some nice people at the family dinner which you often have in Vietnam. They are a great way to meet new people and to try the local food.
One of the main reasons why I picked Cat Ba Island, was the huge National Park on the island. We hiked to the top of one of the hills and although it was cloudy, the views were magnificent! It’s incredible how green this island is!
I was proper scared of getting on a scooter again after my accident in Koh Phangan but as nobody felt comfortable with someone on their back, I had to drive myself. Since it was low season it was very quiet on the street and I really enjoyed riding a scooter!
There are tons of caves on the island, which were used as hiding spots in the war. I definitely recommend visiting the Hospital Cave as it’s very impressive to see the structures that the Vietnamese managed to build in this massive cave!
I booked a boat trip to Ha Long Bay with a few other people from the hostel as we wanted to see the famous lime stone formations there. We had booked a half day tour that took 5 hours and included kayaking!
Thankfully it stopped raining when we were kayaking and we really enjoyed kayaking through caves and into little ponds, getting close to the limestones. Again, I was so surprised to see how green everything was!
On board we were served a lovely lunch, freshly cooked by the boat’s chef! We had incredibly delicious fresh fish and my favourite: fresh spring rolls!
One of the stops of the tour was Monkey Island which is not as full of monkeys as you might think, there were a few on the beach that would steal your food as you were eating is but other than that it was fine.
On this island we stayed for a while so that we could climb to the top of the island which offered an amazing view. Climbing up there was quite hard as the rocks were super sharp but it was totally worth it. We even saw an eagle nesting up there!
We even stopped at one spot to go swimming, but as it was around 8 degrees, I happily declined the offer! I can imagine that it’s lovely to take a dip in the cool water when it’s hot but it was freeeeezing cold!
If you’re looking to explore Ha Long Bay away from the party crowds, I would highly recommend coming to Cat Ba Island! The National Park was one of the nicest on my trip and cruising around the island on a scooter was heaps of fun!
Have you been to Ha Long Bay? If yes, I hope you were more lucky with the weather than I was!