A Brief Guide to Cat Ba Island

Welcome to Cat Ba

Found off the eastern coast of Vietnam, just a three-hour drive from Hanoi, Cat Ba is one of the ideal places to go when you want to relax at the beach but also need some mountain time. 

Cat Ba deserves a good two to four days depending on your schedule: two if you wish to go to the main attractions and four if you want to fully enjoy everything the place has to offer.

How do you get to Cat Ba?

If you are already in Hai Phong, your best bet would be to get the ship in Ben Binh Harbour, which lasts around 45m and costs between 200 and 250 thousand dongs.

If you are coming from Hanoi, we recommend you book a travel pack with Hoang Long Transportation Company. They will pick you up in Hanoi, take you to Hai Phong and from there on to Cat Ba island on their boat. The final leg of the trip will take you to Cat Ba Town on another bus; all this for 250 to 300 thousand dongs, not bad right?

Until now, the only way you could get to Cat Ba was by boat, either from Hai Phong or Ha Long, but on the 6th of June (with any luck), the longest cable car in the world will open, connecting Cat Ba to Cat Hai. According to the Hai Phong Facebook page, tickets will cost 150K for adults and 100k for children, not a bad price considering the experience and the pictures you’ll get out of it!

Accommodation in Cat Ba?

The first thing you have to worry about before arriving somewhere is accommodation, right? So where does one sleep in Cat Ba? The answer is it all depends on the company you keep. If you’re travelling with friends and are looking for a cheap, but cool, place to stay, the Pod Hostel is the place for you. Located on the seafront of Cat Ba Town, the Pod Hostel has, as its name suggests, rooms in which you can find up to 5 beds enclosed in cubicles. We stayed in a room like the one below, with three top beds which were slightly bigger than a single and two larger-than-doubles on the bottom. They also have a rooftop where they offer incredibly good cocktails (try their Old Fashioned) and views.

(And if you’re into videogames, they also have a PlayStation 4 if you feel like a spot of multiplayer PS4 gaming)

A room in the Pod Hotel
The perfect room for a travelling group

We paid 100k dong a night (around 3 euros), prices may rise but not much more than that. They also offer awesome tours…but more on that later.

We should also mention that they also have rooms for one or two people and more hotel-like rooms, but the prices would, of course, be higher. We recommend you check the above link for current prices.

What’s that? You don’t want to be a tourist but would rather stay somewhere where you can be in touch with nature? We have the place for you.

Woodstock Beach Camp is only a 15m drive away from Cat Ba Town and is bang on the beach. It is not a tourist resort but a place where the operative word is “chill”. You can choose to either sleep in one of the rooms in the main building or in one of the tents on the beach. It’s a good place to use as a base or to just lie around, sunbathe or participate in some of the several activities and workshops they organise; unfortunately, last we checked, the beach couldn’t be really be used to swim in.

Where to eat in Cat Ba town?

Hands down, Quiri Pub Cocktail and Restaurant. With a full 5 stars on Tripadvisor, we went to this place 2 days straight for nearly every meal (bar one or two cheeky banh mi). You can find it easily, just cross over the bridge by the fishing port and walk on for about 5 minutes. As mentioned, Quiri is the ideal place for any meal; they serve delicious breakfast, special mention to their mango or banana pancake, as well as western and local Cat Ba specialities.

If you’ve already tried every single local yummy dish and you miss your traditional tastes from home, we recommend Napoli Pizza. Now, there are two, one on the main street by the sea and one tucked away on another street; we recommend you go to the latter for a more relaxed and less crowded meal but to the first, if you fancy having a drink later on their terrace and watch the hustle and bustle of the night.

Their pizzas would probably make any Italian tourist weep of nostalgia for their homeland.

Where to go in Cat Ba?

Swimming time!

As we mentioned before, Cat Ba is a place for all sorts. One of our favourite little nooks is what we called (drum roll) The Secret Beach! You will be able to find it here; you can either walk there or take the bike, although in that case, you’ll have to park the bike at the entrance of the path.

Secret Beach Bay
The Secret Beach

Now comes the fun bit, you’ll have a little adventure time to get down to the beach, a little exercise, but it will be worth it. The beach itself is great for a swim and a sunbathe, but remember to take a towel or something to lie down on as the beach itself is mostly made of stones and shells.

Fancy a climb?

One of the attractions in Cat Ba is the famed Green Ladder, also called Eltinks viewpoint on Maps. As the name states, it is a long, green emergency ladder which takes you to the top of an enormous rock with, admittedly, awesome views. Right now it is officially closed and it is forbidden to climb it, we must stress that there won’t be a man hanging around there and he will not ask for some money to show you the non-existent way to access it.

Two men Monty Python's Flying Circus
*nudge nudge* *wink wink*

The ideal tour in Cat Ba

As we mentioned before, we went with the tour offered by the Pod Hostel, it included the boat trips, a visit to the floating village, a kayaking session with which you can visit some of the well-known caves (which…err…we kind of took a wrong turn and couldn’t find it before time ran out). Finally, the tour takes you to the renowned Monkey Island but I feel like we should take our time to talk about it.

What’s up with Monkey Island?

The problem with this island is that it is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a beautiful little island which, having climbed to the top, offers beautifully instagrammable vistas while also giving you a chance of observing wild monkeys in their habitat.

Monkey in Monkey Island
We called him Doofus and we love him

BUT

Unless you were “lucky” enough, like us, to get stuck in Vietnam during this current crisis and find the island empty, you will most probably find it full of people. The island has become a massified little island with monkeys who seem to have become professional thieves and scavengers

Aside from the fact that the climb to the viewpoint is literally a climb with no protection, it was kind of nerve-wracking when there was nobody there and just four of us climbing it, we dread to think what it is like when tourism is in full swing.

monkey drinking
A prime example of rubbish meets monkey

We also have to think about the animals themselves, which are constantly being sought and petted, fed unhealthy rubbish and generally harassed.

So, when you get down to it, Monkey island could be a great little stop on your trip, it really just depends on you.

Cat Ba National Park

Now here is, like the famed tenth magpie, a place you must not miss. Cat Ba National Park is huge, it covers 26,300 hectares over land and sea. For our little trekking experience, we just stuck to the main route, which took us from the park’s official entrance to one of its peaks; there are two paths up the mountain, one sees to be windier while the other one is steeper, they both take more or less the same time to traverse, around an hour, but believe me, if you get winded easily, you do not want to go up the steeper path.

Eine Kleine Hike

The entrance to the park itself will cost you 40K, which also includes the visit of some caves not too far away from the entrance, more on this later.

Before starting your wee little trek, we would recommend buying some cold water, either at the little bar by the entrance or at the one at the bottom of the mountain.

The trek itself will be hard-ish. If you have any luck, you might get to see the white-headed Langur, an extremely endangered monkey found solely on the island. The path will lead you to a two-storey structure which will offer awesome photos, some shade and a well-deserved rest…you will also curse it, as it will trick you into believing that it is the top; there is another leg to get to the true summit, which will offer even better vistas.

Look out Cat Ba National Park
The false summit

A note of caution, more than once we nearly walked into cobwebs with big spiders the size of our hand, although they are harmless, it is not exactly the best of experiences, so keep your eyes peeled; as a famous character said, “Constant Vigilance!”.

A cave of wonders…and bats, lots of bats.

The Trung Trang Cave is a five-minute drive away from the park’s entrance. The cave itself isn’t especially remarkable, but it is a nice little relaxed walk after the long hike; a 30-minute stroll through narrow tunnels and big caverns. It isn’t one of the highlights of Cat Ba but worth it as it is included in the price of the park’s ticket.

Now, you may have noticed by now that the best way to get around the island is by bike, the best option (unless you brought your own) is to rent one. We got some nice bikes for 70k a day plus whatever it cost you to fill up the tank (around 50k) in the shop next to the Pod Hotel, but you can find bike rental shops all over the place.

Bike riding through Cat Ba
Easy riding through the island.

Cat Ba is the ideal place to learn how to ride, there is one main road which crosses the island, plus many other smaller ones, where you can glide along without much threat of traffic. 

All in all, Vietnam is an incredible place to visit. The country itself covers more than 330,000 square kilometres and hs both chilly mountains and tropical beaches. If you are thinking of visiting it, we beg you to give the country enough days to be able to explore it all perfectly, this guide will help you along your way.

This has been the first entry of out Globelers adventure, stay tuned next week for more!

globelers

Hello World

Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome

We’re very happy to begin this new phase of our Globelers adventure. Many of you already know who we are and what we do, some of you have already had your own Globelers experience, but to start the blog properly, we thought it would be great to give you all a small introduction to what we do.

We had a dream, we dreamt of a world whose people didn’t need a massive alien invasion to be united, and although we’d still love Will Smith, we wouldn’t need him to save us all to truly get along and share lives and experiences.

The question we asked ourselves was this:

How could we accomplish this dream?

We knew from the start that we would have to focus our goal on travel. Traveling is by far the great unifier, it allows us to open our eyes and minds to new experiences, cultures and points of view. By meeting new people abroad we get a glimpse of a different way of life, but that was our first problem, how can we help people to meet other like-minded people from other countries? It might be easier for some people if they are already there: go to a pub, start talking to everyone and hope for the best, but not everyone finds that an easy thing to do; especially if we wished to help create these connections before the actual traveling itself.

OUR CORE IDEA

It was settled, we would help create a network of people who wished to meet others while traveling and focus on bringing them together.

How would it work?

We analysed other sites with a similar goal to ours and what we saw was that they lacked something we believed to be essential; they all focused on free one on one accommodation, but we thought, why stop there? How much better would it be if whole groups of friends could meet other groups and socialise, travel to each other’s countries and stay at each other’s homes?
We knew that was the way to go.

Having settled this, we came up with three ways to help people around the world to get to know each other:

Create a social platform

From Facebook to Instagram, WhatsApp to Snapchat and Discord to Telegram, there is no better way to keep in touch than with social media, you can chat with your friends, see what they’re up to or even follow what your favorite celebrities are doing. We started by building a website which would allow the user to create, what we call, a Local Group.

Globelers' System
Globelers’ Local Group

The Local Group will be the focal point of our community; in it, each group of friends will be able to introduce themselves with a text, photos and even with a video as well as state how many people comprise their group and how many beds they can offer. Prospective travelers will be able to search for groups of friends who live in their desired destination and find one which can accommodate. They will also have the possibility to offer themselves as hosts too.

Free Accommodation

They say money talks, but nothing speaks louder than free things. Globelers will allow you to travel on a budget, by finding a Local Group who can host you, you will be able to stay for free in their homes, either in one single house or spread out between the group of friends.

Now you know what they say, “there is no such thing as free dinner”. What do we mean by that? Although the accommodation will be free, it is always nice to show our appreciation towards those who help us, so why not give something back?

One of the ways you and your friends can thank your hosts for the free accommodation is by cooking a local dish from your country. Your group may have traveled to another country to soak up the culture but rest assured that your hosts will love to learn and try new things too! For example, when I have been hosted abroad, I’ve always tried to make gazpacho if the vegetables are in season, otherwise, I will make a tortilla de patata or Spanish omelette made with potatoes.

Another way you might go is the party way! Does your country have any typical drinks you could make? Sangria is well known to most people, but what I like to surprise people with is Agua de Valencia, or Valencia’s Water (link), which is one of those great drinks you can make a lot of cheaply to share it with everyone.

Cheap Travel

Ah cheap! What a word. Most of the time, the word cheap will conjure up images of plastic toys that break at the first chance they get, but when traveling, the word chap acquires a quasi-legendary status. Every time somebody starts looking for a prospective holiday, the word cheap is their favorite word when searching on Google.

How can Globelers help in the search of this Holy Grail? Easily, by putting you in contact with Local Groups. The best way to understand it is if we think about ourselves, we all know about at least one hidden bar or restaurant that offers great food for a small price don’t we? In my case, I know of El Tropezón, which has awesome tapas for a good price; so if you are ever in Barcelona, seek it out! It may be a bit hidden but it is worth it.

How about those little tips and tricks locals know about?

For example, did you know that most museums in Barcelona are free on the first Sunday of the month? Or that it is much cheaper to get a ten trip ticket to go from the airport to the city center, which you can then continue using there, rather than buying the expensive one-way ticket?
This is the kind of useful information your hosts will be able to give you, allowing you and your friends to bring traveling costs even lower, making travel cheaper.

So, what do you think? Do you also dream of meeting new and interesting people? Are you ready to discover new countries and ways of life?
Go to globelers.com, create your Local Group and start planning your future adventures.

As we all know, traveling has been restricted in most of the world due to the current emergency of COVID19, we at Globelers would like to represent the great times that lie ahead. A time will come when we can go back to discovering every nook and cranny of our little big planet, but until then, we can only ask you to be safe, protect yourself and follow your countries health laws; if we all work together, we will be traveling the world once more in no time.