Cat Ba Island is a stepping off point to beautiful Lan Ha Bay Vietnam. Karst islands litter Lan Ha Bay, like stepping stones in a giant playground meant for outdoor pursuits like climbing and kayaking.
The quieter, more pristine waters of Lan Ha Bay Vietnam, rival and many say surpass, those of the descending dragon or Halong Bay, on it’s northern border.
What You Will Find in This Post
Where is Lan Ha Bay?
This map below shows the border line between Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay. Halong Bay is accessed from the town of the same name, whilst Lan Ha Bay is accessed from Haiphong.
Whereas mini buses with limited luggage capacity ply the Hanoi to Halong stretch (with enforced stops at tourist shops en-route) as part of a Lan Ha bay boat trip, a full-sized air-conditioned Hoang Long bus makes the Hanoi to Haiphong trip.
Being a regular inter city bus-service, there are no tourist stops. If you want to know more about the whole trip Hanoi to Cat Ba town, I’ve already done the homework for you.
How to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island
We did so ourselves in 2011 and it worked exactly how the Asia Outdoors site said it would. Asia Outdoors has changed name to Langur Adventures. Scroll down on the link until you reach the Transportation section. When we did this route it was fairly new to budget travellers but it has been operating consistently since then so is definitely well established way of getting to Cat Ba Island from Hanoi.
You can read the account of our experience in my most popular blog post here.
With such an interest in Lan Ha By, it’s time to share some of our previously unpublished photos.
Lan Ha Bay Vietnam Photos and Cat Ba Island Photos
You can see in the above map that Lan Ha bay has more islands than Halong. Two of the passengers on our climbing and kayaking boat were dropped off at the Sandy Beach Resort on Nam Cat Island, on our return trip to Cat Ba Island for what they hoped would be a romantic island rendezvous.
Sandy Beach Resort, Nam Cat Island Vietnam.
Fishing villages in Lan Ha Bay Vietnam.
Unfortunately we were not allowed access to the houses, which was a little disappointing, but we could kayak up close.
Mussel colony corgi guard dog?
We dropped anchor off a karst island with a small shrine for our second kayaking opportunity. Ours was one of three kayaks that ventured over for a look. Entry is permitted.
We paddled through the opening into a circular rock enclosure which was open to the sky.
The mussels grow in sand in the submerged pots.
The hazy photos were taken in the morning, but the air cleared as the day progressed and was beautifully clear after lunch.
I’m a big squid eater and ordered a plate of stir fried squid and vegetables at a waterfront restaurant on Cat Ba Island. It was THE best squid I’ve eaten – fresh, small, tender, juicy, tasty – tossed in the fiery wok and on my plate within minutes. I will not forget you Cat Ba Island Squid.
Squid Fishing boats with glass lights, Lan Ha Bay.
Another hazy morning shot. Rock islands as far as the eye can see.
Tarring the outside of a traditional Vietnamese fishing boat.
In April the water was too cold for us to swim, but we did enjoy the walk and some others braved the water for us.
Swimming from Cat Ba island in Lan Ha Bay.
There are rental scooters available to ride around the island, and explore caves and those same karst hills on land. Cat Ba Island National Park has trekking tours and other activities. If you follow the links above to the Asia Outdoor site you can see what is available.
Seafood Tank in Cat Ba Restaurant. I’d not seen crabs like this before.
Walk around the both sides of the harbour before sunset and you will find Bia Hoi sold by the jug harbour-side.
On shore more fishing boats await their turn to be tarred.
Our hotel overlooked the jetty right in the middle of Cat Ba town.
Sunset over Cat Ba Town Vietnam.
Thanks for reading and commenting – we really appreciate it. If you have a blog we would love you to add your travel post to the link below for Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday which we co-host with Ruth from Tanama Tales and Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations.