A room with a view: Cát Bà Island
Yeah, this was the view of the harbor from my hotel in Cát Bà, although the photo was taken standing next to the harbor.
I was in Cát Bà, the only inhabited island in Ha Long Bay, over a three-day weekend at the end of March. I went hiking in the national park, explored the harbor in Cát Bà town, ate delicious sea food and watched the tide come in on the beach.
The three T’s of Vietnam: Tradition, Tourism and Trash.
Vietnam isn’t the greenest of countries. More bins for recycling and rubbish and some government propaganda might help with the problem, although more and more younger people are interested in the environment.
With its beaches, resorts and proximity to Ha Long Bay, Cát Bà is a favorite vacation spot for Vietnamese and I left with the impression that it was considered fairly romantic. Unfortunately, I’ve had to re-name it Cat Call Island because it’s the only place I’ve been in Vietnam where I was cat called for sexual reasons rather than for being foreign. I prefer the “Ohmygod you’re a foreigner” type to the “You’ve got big hips” type.
It was beautiful. Go to Cát Bà.
People live on the boats; there is a whole community set up in the harbor, including floating shops that row up to the houseboats to sell their wares.
Sometimes you’ve got to pretend you’re Ansel Adams.
If you go to Cát Bà Island, take a Hoang Long bus from Luong Yen station in Hanoi. A ticket costs 190,000 VND each way and the bus connects you to the fast ferry (45 minutes) to the island, then to another bus from the harbor to the town. Buy your return ticket once you’re on the island. As in most places in Vietnam, it’s easy enough to rock up to any hotel, hostel or nha nghi and ask for a room. My housemate and I paid 200,000 for one night in a nha nghi and had a room overlooking the harbor. (Don’t be confused: while nha nghis are basically hotels that rent rooms by the hour to couples, they also function as regular hotels. I have yet to run into one that is actually a brothel but those exist as well). Once you’re on the island, it’s easy enough to rent motorbikes and bicycles, hike in the national park, explore the Hospital Cave that was used to treat wounded during the war and go to the beach.