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Discovering Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Discovering Cat Ong Island 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.

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Cat Ong Island

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cat Ba Island

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.

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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.

Trekking In Cat Ba National Park

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.

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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.[spacer height=”20px”]

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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This is part two of my Ha Long Bay experience with Ocean Tours in Vietnam. Part one covers exploring the amazing Ha Long Bay with Ocean Tours[spacer height=”20px”]

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.[spacer height=”20px”]

2018-07-16T21:56:36+13:00

36 Comments

  1. sebastian May 13, 2018 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Hi

    Thanks for sharing your amazing experience, would u mind please telling me how to get to cat ong island?
    Did u take a small boat or ferry from cat ba island to reach cat ong island? please advise, i would love to stay over at the same hostel/bungalows u stayed in if u don’t mind sharing how to reach cat ong?

    I am looking forward to hearing from u
    thanks again

  2. Sandy Kul October 27, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    I get so much out of reading your articles, especially since I’m planning a trip to Vietnam for next year! Not sure if I missed it but what was the name of the hostel you stayed at in Cat Ong Island?

  3. Irene Ferri October 25, 2017 at 5:27 am - Reply

    Your photos are the most amazing ones I’ve seen from this place! Can’t wait to visit, I’m pinning them all on my Vietnam board!

  4. Leah Sullivan October 25, 2017 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Love your pics! Have never been to that side of the world – deffs on my bucket list :]

  5. Niki | Chasing Departures October 24, 2017 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    I love your photos! This just makes me want to go to Asia even more now!

  6. Ufuoma October 24, 2017 at 3:44 am - Reply

    Your photos are absolutely stunning.
    I’m in love with this entire post. Bioluminescence sounds really cool and I am glad you enjoyed it.
    Now putting Vietnam on my ever-growing bucket list. I cannot wait to visit.

  7. Southern Roots Blog October 23, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    ALL of your pictures are so beautiful! I have never been to Asia but lately it has been popping into my mind more and more, especially when I see posts like yours!!

  8. Katelyn Brin Bossany October 23, 2017 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    This looks like an amazing area to explore and unplug! Such breathtaking views and those cottages look awesome!

  9. Aireona93 October 23, 2017 at 10:07 am - Reply

    This looks like such a beautiful place! And I had never heard of it before. Your pictures are so inspiring and capture so much of the experience! I definitely need to learn more now!

  10. Hayley October 23, 2017 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Bioluminescence sounds cool as anything. I’ve never been to Asia but would love to!

  11. Lindsey Messenger October 23, 2017 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Man I really need to get to Vietnam! SE Asia will hopefully happen next year!

  12. Kate October 23, 2017 at 6:07 am - Reply

    Such an experience in a beautiful place!

  13. katrina sales October 23, 2017 at 5:36 am - Reply

    Such an experience in a beautiful place!

  14. Anna (WouldBeTraveller) October 23, 2017 at 1:10 am - Reply

    Your photos are incredible! What a beautiful place 🙂 and any place with ‘cat’ in the title is good enough for me!

  15. Mina Kotlárova Sousa October 23, 2017 at 12:07 am - Reply

    Sounds (and looks – your photos are stunning!) great! So different from my experience in Halong Bay and I’m honestly, so happy that you got to visit the islands – seems such a better option than the overrated (in my opinion) overnight cruise

  16. Anisa Alhilali October 22, 2017 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    I really want to do something like this! The area is just so beautiful. You mention it getting cold – what time of year did you go?

  17. Anuradha Goyal October 22, 2017 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Place looks breathtakingly beautiful.

  18. Amanda Koh October 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    I’ve heard of the famous Ha Long Bay but didn’t know Lan Ha Bay on Cat Ong Island and Cat Ba Island existed! You must have had a wonderful time and it looks super relaxing! Would definitely add that to my list for when I visit Vietnam 🙂

  19. Kristin Eva Quinn October 22, 2017 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    This looks incredible! I visited Vietnam but didn’t make it to Ha Long Bay and completely regretted it – now even more so!
    I’ll have to make a trip back 🙂

  20. Christine October 22, 2017 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Ha Long Bay looks amazing! Your photos are beautiful and really bring the place to life! I’m dying to visit Vietnam! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  21. Meg Marie October 22, 2017 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    I’ve always wanted to see bioluminescence! They supposedly had it on Perhentian Island (where I just was) but it was a bad time for it when I was there. I loved Vietnam, didn’t make it to Cat Ba, but I’ll have to go back!

  22. Cristina October 22, 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Ugh, you always go to such a beautiful places!!! I didn’t know Vietnam looked like that… I know to little about Asia.
    Crazy to hear that the rocks ripped your shorts. they must’ve been extremely sharp!

  23. Julia K October 22, 2017 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Great Post! I am so looking forward on discovering the lesser known part! Thank you.

  24. Char October 22, 2017 at 2:25 am - Reply

    Those view, your hair, where do I begin? This looks like such a fun trip and you’ve really given me a little more insight into Vietnam!

  25. Danielle Jones October 22, 2017 at 1:56 am - Reply

    Great post, I’ve always wanted to visit Ha Long Bay it looks perfect! Your pictures are beautiful!

  26. Sarah Poitras October 22, 2017 at 12:55 am - Reply

    The turquoise hues are just beautiful.

  27. Kristin Kohler October 22, 2017 at 12:05 am - Reply

    So much green on land and so much blue out at sea! Those views! I would love to visit here one day. And although I am a pescatarian, it’s great to know that they accomodate the vegetarians.

  28. Michelle de Klerk October 21, 2017 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    Gosh I’m dying to go to Vietnam! That hike up to Ngy Lam Peak looks like a must-do. Thanks for the tip – don’t think I will be wearing flip flops when we go!

  29. thecurioussparrow October 21, 2017 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Vietnam is really high on my wishlist. Great post and photos 🙂

  30. Sheree Strange October 21, 2017 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    The bioluminescence experience sounds incredible!!!!! I’m not sure I would have been as brave as you to venture out further, but if I ever have the chance this post will be ringing in my ears. Fantastic photos, as always!! <3

  31. Faith Coates October 21, 2017 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    I have always wanted to see the Bioluminescence in persons what a brilliant experience.

  32. Clíodhna Ryan October 21, 2017 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    Wow the views look breathtakingly! What a beautiful place!

  33. Ricarda Christina Hollweg October 21, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    I visited Vietnam, but haven’t been in this region. I love the lush green mountains and feel like returning to Vietnam right now. Thanks for sharing.

  34. Kelly October 21, 2017 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    The colors of your photos are so gorgeous! It almost looks like watercolors!

  35. Jessica van Roij October 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    The pictures look amazing. It is almost from a fantasy movie! I really want to viist, so thank you for all the usefull tips!

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Your typical New Zealander, now discovering the world one country at a time. With a high-end backpacking style I prefer to glampack across the globe by embracing the best of each destination. All of which I share right here on Backpackers Wanderlust. 

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