Discovering Cat OngIsland and Cat Ba Island in Lan Ha Bay With Ocean Tours
For two days we would be discovering Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay with Ocean Tours while in Vietnam. On our first day to ventured around the magnificent sites of Ha Long Bay. For the next two days we would be exploring the lesser known area of Lan Ha Bay on Cat Ong Island and Cat Ba Island.
Either island provides the perfect chance to do Lan Ha Bay on a budget and explore the outlying areas of Ha Long Bay. Even though it may not be as popular as the famous Ha Long Bay the views are just as amazing and there are so many new things to discover.
About Cat Ong Beach Cottages
Arriving on Cat Ong Island the temperature is dropping and the sun in slowly lowering in the horizon. We crowd around the fireplace to warm up while given an introduction to this magnificent island. The dining area is set out beautifully, with tables lined up along the open aired room. Stone and wooden accents really make this place stand out, with perfect lounging areas to relax. Downstairs is an awesome games area set up with table tennis table, a pool table, darts and foosball.
The beach out front is also stunning. With pristine sand and seats set up along the shoreline. In the distance Cat Ba Town sparkles across the horizon. The lights of the boats used to attract fish dot the ocean, like stars in the night sky. Surrounding us is more amazing islands, just like in Ha Long Bay. They are covered in lush trees and with no sandy shores, just large rock formations rising up from the ocean.
We settle down where we are staying in the ‘nicer’ hostel room. It is just four of us in there with amazing views across the sea. We are given fluffy pillows and cuddly duvet covers. I already know I am going to have an awesome sleep tonight. The facilities here are basic with no wifi. Though, there’s hot water, cellphone reception and sockets to charge devices. For $20 more per person you can upgrade to a private bungalow as well.
A Fun Night On Cat Ong Island
Heading back to the dining area we begin our four course seafood BBQ dinner with appetizers. The non seafood eaters and I get into a group and surprisingly there is quite a few of us. They have delicious spring rolls and other fried vege goodies. I am not 100% sure what they are, but they are good and that’s all that matters. After appetizers is dinner time. A group of us grab a spot on one of the many tables as the kitchen staff bring out plate, after plate, just filled of goodies. Vegetables, rice, oysters, shrimp, chicken and tofu for the vegetarian. We all dig down and thoroughly enjoy. Its obvious none of us would be going hungry here. Dessert is soon to come followed by plates of fruit to finish it off wonderfully.
Later that evening our tour guide Nick break out the drinking games and even though I am not much of a drinker, as a kiwi I cannot pass up a game of beer pong. Unfortunately, I let the country down and don’t progress far into the rounds. I don’t really mind though as the winner got free drinks and I didn’t have much use for that, it was just my competitive side coming out.
We spend the rest of the evening chilling out and getting to know each other. Once it gets later into the night a bonfire is lit on the beach and we crowd around sharing stories. It is so peaceful here with nothing to be heard but the distance sounds of whirling motors from the fishing boats.
Experiencing Bioluminescence on Cat Ong Island
With the moon blocked behind the clouds and minimal light reaching the beach it is the perfect time to experience the bioluminescence. It is a well known fact that you can see bioluminescence in Ha Long Bay and I could not imagine a more perfect place to witness it for the first time.
Kicking at the shore line the reaction is minimal, we are disappointed. Though, never one to give up I decide to wade a bit further into the water. Even though I am super scared unable to see what could be lurking at the bottom of the ocean. Suddenly, the water lights up, sparkling the most beautiful shades of blue. I splash like a child in the water. Thoroughly enjoying this magic I know this moment would be the highlight of my entire trip in Ha Long Bay.
Exploring Cat Ong Island
Starting the day with a fresh pancake breakfast we meet everyone back up in the dining area. Today the group would be splitting in two, those who have booked the one night tour and those which have booked the two night tour. As I will be staying another night, while everyone is packing their bags, I chill out on one of the couches with views overlooking the blue ocean.
Before the one night tour group splits off from us we hike up to the lookout points on Cat Ong Island. With the minimal ‘hiking’ gear aka flipflops, I walk across the beach and up into the island jungle. There are overgrown plants covering the track and vines hanging down. I am on the lookout for unwanted visitors. Climbing along the rocks it is difficult to keep balance, especially in these shoes. Luckily I manage to survive to the first view point without injury. Though, not everyone is so lucky.
On one end of the island we are provided with magnificent views out towards the ocean and the surrounding Lan Ha Bay area. The numerous limestone karst islands dotted around the sea are the perfect fishing spot. Unfortunately, while sitting on the rocks I manage to rip the only pair of shorts I brought with me. Those rocks are super sharp!
Further up the track is another lookout point. Though, it is extremely difficult to get to. We are climbing to basically the highest point on Cat Ong Island. The rocks don’t provide great grip, especially in flipflops. Though, I manage to make it to the top. The views show off the outlying islands of Lan Ha Bay, which is an amazing site.
Relaxing On Cat Ong Island
We had back to Cat Ong Cottages and say goodbye to the other half of our group. Today they would be heading back to Hanoi to continue their ventures throughout Vietnam. Meanwhile, we would continue enjoying the sunshine here in Cat Ong Island of Lan Ha Bay, then off to explore Cat Ba Island tomorrow.
We have another delicious Vietnamese lunch at the restaurant and enjoy the views. The rest of the day we chill sun bathing, playing games and basically just enjoying this magnificent scenery of Lan Ha Bay. Unfortunately, the weather packs up and the planned trip to sunset beach on the other side of Cat Ong Island is called off. Though, we don’t mind as we are enjoying having the entire island to us. Apart from the music playing from the restaurant there is no other noise, having spent a week in Hanoi this certainly makes a nice change.
Later in the evening a new tour group arrives to start their adventures in Lan Ha Bay. They have their delicious dinner and settle into their accommodation for the night. We are a little more quiet and head off to bed early after an amazing Vietnamese dinner.
Heading To Cat Ba Island
The following morning we wake up early to another yummy breakfast of pancakes. Its time for us to pack up our bags, as today we would be heading over to Cat Ba Island and then back to Chien Hostel in Hanoi.
Soon a small, super tiny, little boat arrives to take us over. The driver lights up a cigarette as we pile in, making sure to sit opposite each other to keep the boat balanced. This is certainly the most dodgy boat I have ever been in. With gaps in the floorboards and paint peeling away. It doesn’t take too long to travel between Cat Ong Island and Cat Ba Island across Lan Ha Bay. Soon those lights which were sparkling at us all the previous nights are now close up. The boats which line the harbor on Cat Ba Island are amazing. They have hundred of light bulbs strung up on wires to attract fish. No wonder they light up Lan Ha Bay at night.
Arriving in the port of Cat Ba Island it looks like quite a nice town. There is such a relaxed vibe about it which is a refreshing change from the regular bustling corners of Vietnam. The pathway is beautifully manicured with flowers and high rise buildings line the shore.
Exploring Cat Ba National Park
Soon a mini van picks our group up and takes us along the winding roads further into the middle of Cat Ba Island. Though, not before a bee makes its way into the van and I have a freak out. Cat Ba Island is so amazingly beautiful with lush green trees absolutely everywhere you look. The mountainous scenery is a nice change from the ocean. Though, the humidity is not so nice without the refreshing sea breezes.
We arrive at Cat Ba National Park all prepared for our two hour trek up to Ngy Lam Peak. Leaving our bags with a man at a local restaurant just across from the entry we buy some bottles of water to last the hike. The first twenty minutes walking is super easy, just along a flat path further into the mountainous area. We stop to see some monkeys. Though, these are not nice ones and we are told they are in cages as they cannot be trusted around the tourist which hike in Cat Ba National Park. We take a few photos while they monkeys growl at us from behind wire.
Soon enough the walking track gets steep making it super difficult to climb, especially in flipflops. The small portions of stairs provide some relief from the loose dirt, though we march onward. Small lookout points along the way keep us encouraged to keep going and having to stop every minute for a breather certainly slows us down. Nevertheless we are told the view from the top would be worth it and other hikers coming down the path tell us it is as well. With humid weather and the trees blocking any slight breeze the sweat problems are for real. By the time the tree line starts to clear I am a dripping mess.
Still in flipflops I am climbing over ridiculously sharp rocks trying not to slip. This is no longer much of a hike and more of a climb as we use our hands to clamber further up the track. A few cuts never hurt nobody and soon we are at the first lookout point. A large wooden structure towers above us. Though, before willing to climb it with our jelly legs we sit down at the steps and have a breather. Downing a lot of water to rehydrate I slowly make my way to the top of the lookout hut, one step at a time. At highest story a nice breeze reaches us so we chill out for a bit before venturing to the final lookout point of Ngy Lam Peak.
Back onto the track we make our way even further along more rocky tracks using our hands for much needed support. Soon the path opens up to a bunch of boulders perched on the top of the highest hill visible. The panoramic views of just lush greenery go on into the horizon, it is absolutely amazing. The hills are all perfectly shaped like green fluffy clouds which just go on forever. We grab some Instagram worthy shots before heading back down the steep path in about half the time it took us to get up.
Heading Back To Hanoi
After jumping back into the minivan we open the windows to provide a cool breeze before heading across Cat Ba Island. For lunch we stop at the cutest local restaurant. I am given the biggest plate of noodles with vegetable and tofu I have seen in my entire life! It is absolutely delicious and I eat most of it to my surprise. There are are also plenty of animals in the surrounding farm. So we go and check out the pigs, chickens and dogs as well as learning about some of the fruit growing.
Back in the minivan we drive to the port and jump onto a speedboat which will take us back to Haiphong. I fall asleep on the way back utterly exhausted from the hike. Arriving at the main port we board the bus where it is a three hour drive back to Hanoi and our bed for the next couple nights in Chien Hostel.
Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay With Ocean Tours
I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay with Ocean Tours while in Vietnam. The meals, accommodation and activities we were provided with were all equally amazing! If you are wanting to check out Ha Long Bay on a budget I highly recommend going with Ocean Tours.
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