Getting to Cat Ba from Hanoi
4 hr bus and a little boat followed by another bus felt like a very long journey to get to Cat Ba. We were hoping to get some clear blue skies and sunshine by the coast but there was no sign of it here either…
One of the main reason we went here was to rock climb. We met the guys at AsiaOutdoors during our last climbing trip 2 weeks earlier in Chiang Mai Thailand, where we climbed Crazy horse buttress. Hearing Rich and Nate talking about Cat Ba, Halong Bay and the climbing there made us decide to go there, even through we were initially just planning to go to the south of Vietnam.
Staying in Cat Ba
Cat Ba town is developing and feels a bit like a giant construction site with lots of hotels and buildings full of dust and machines. The road along the waterfront has restaurants and hostels scattered along. Food is similar in most places, with a mix of traditional Thai and cheap replicas of western food.
We had most our meals at our hostel, Langur hostel. They offered a family meal together with the family owning the home stay and their staff every night. They cook and serve a range of traditional Vietnamese dishes such as delicious seafood spring rolls, fried fish, morning glory, tofu and salted peanuts. At 80 000 vdn (£2.50) it is pretty good value and an easy way to meet and talk to fellow travellers, which is something the kids really love. Other good meals were had at My Way for western dishes and Vietnamese at Phuong Nhung.
Things to do in Cat Ba with children
We had 6 OK days here, 2 days climbing with AsiaOutdoors, 1 day of kayaking followed by a Christmas lunch, 1 day building Christmas Lego and 1 day checking out the local beaches.
We went for a swim off the so boat during our days out climbing but the other days were grey, cool and not enough sun to tempt us into swimming in the sea. Also, with the really busy heavy cargo boats on the sea here, the huge fishing community and floating village not far from the beaches of Cat Ba we were a bit unsure as to how clean the water actually was.
There are many other things to do here that we didn’t try, but heard other people raving about. There is a full day trek across the national park you can do, a 2-3 day boat trip in the ha long bay, snorkelling trips and fishing trips to mention a few.
We did find the activities on offer quite expensive, but I guess it depends on your budget and if Cat Ba is your main destination or not. There are free things you can enjoy as well like watching the fishing boats unload their catch in the old harbour.
Maybe with a bit brighter and warmer weather Cat Ba could be a really nice place to stay but we were not blown over by this place. We did have a great time on the days out with AsiaOutdoors but not so much on the island itself. The enjoyment came in the shape of climbing, kayaking and having a fun Christmas dinner with AsiaOutdoors their guides and fellow adventurers.
Do use these guys for your activities if you come here, they really do know their stuff and how to make you enjoy it.