Vietnam – Cat Ba Island

– NOVEMBER 14-18, 2015

We know from our travels that we need to arrive at transportation much earlier than requested to ensure we never miss our bus/plane/boat/etc.  Our bus today was to depart at 11:30am, so we arrived at 10:45am to be safe.  As we arrived at the bus station and easily found the bus (you buy the bus tickets from the bus drivers, not from a ticket office) so we boarded the bus to get good seats.  The bus then left the station at 11:00am, 30 minutes early before the scheduled departure!  There were no other buses that day, so if we had shown up at 11:05am we wouldn’t have found the bus.

Our afternoon bus from Nimh Binh left early because they were picking up furniture from the side of the road to deliver on the way to Hai Phong.  They must had loaded 5 or 6 bedroom sets and 3 or 4 kitchen table/chair sets in the bus and under the bus.  It took them over an hour to load this stuff, with only 8 passengers in a bus for 30 people.  It was crazy to see them load up furniture pieces onto a public bus…but it is Vietnam.

By the time we arrived in Hai Phong we had 35 minutes before the ferry bus would pick us up.  We grabbed some food to cover dinner.  I went to use the restaurant washroom and I found this layout with a 45 degree angled toilet!

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Bathrooms in Vietnam can have strange configurations. This toilet on an angle in the room is something good architecture doesn’t allow. This looks like something an architecture graduate on their first job would design with the leftover space on a floor plate.

The ferry bus drove us for about 40 minutes, then we exited the bus to board the high-speed ferry boat to the island of Cat Ba.  Another 45 minutes later and we are here.  On the short walk from the bus station to our hotel we stopped by a grocery store to load up on some snacks for the next 5 days.  I found this one below that is laughable how blatantly it rips off the Superman character.

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The Cat Ba grocery store had this snack using the Superman logo from the comics, but then clearly changing the character to not use the actual Superman costume. Perhaps Warner should be made aware of these Asian copyright issues. Yes, this stuff bugs me.

The main ferry terminal was closed for the day when we arrived via boat, so our captain docked us at the other side of the island.  Below is a picture of the main ferry terminal, which is only 2 blocks from our hotel.  Its a nice welcoming gate.

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The Cat Ba Island welcoming gate at the main ferry terminal.

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The Cat Ba Island welcoming gate at the main ferry terminal.

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The Cat Ba Island bar scene.

At Cat Ba they have the wonderful Banh Mi sandwiches, but here they come with roasted pork belly, veggies, a few different sauces and a fried egg.  Delicious, but still nothing compared to the Ho Chi Minh City Banh Mi.  But of course, at $1 Cdn per sandwich you simply cannot go wrong.

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The wonderful Cat Ba Banh Mi sandwich with roasted pork belly, veggies, a few different sauces and a fried egg.

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The wonderful Cat Ba Banh Mi sandwich with roasted pork belly, veggies, a few different sauces and a fried egg.

The big event here is our planned boat tour through Lan Ha Bay and the thousands of islands there up to Ha Long Bay.  We are stopping at Ha Long Bay to kayak through the tunnel caves, then enjoying an authentic Vietnamese lunch on board the boat.  Then we will set sail for a return to Lan Ha Bay and a stop at the wild sandy beaches.  Then we will stop to view the fishing villages and climb to the top of Monkey Island.

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Our boat “Thang Loi”

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – fishing village

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Kayaking through the tunnel caves

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lunch on the boat

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Ha Long Bay full day tour

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay at wild sandy beach

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay at wild sandy beach

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – Lan Ha Bay Monkey Island

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Ha Long Bay full day tour – At the end of the day this is what Jill looked like.

All of the stuff here was fun, but since we have already done each of these activities in other countries it just wasn’t as special as it could have been.  That is to say, once you have kayaked in New Zealand then taking a kayak in Vietnam is fun, but not comparable.  The same as the earlier canyoning in New Zealand, it can’t be beat with the canyoning opportunities in Vietnam.  However, if you plan a sole vacation to Vietnam and perform these activities you will emerge from them very pleased with your experiences here.

My advice, do Vietnam as a sole getaway vacation and not as part of a larger trip.  The stuff to do in Vietnam is all good, but it can be done elsewhere better and if you plan adventure type activities elsewhere then Vietnam will seem less in comparison.  Vietnam is cheap, many people speak English, many people are friendly, and there is a wide variety of things to do here.  Vietnam is a special place and I highly encourage everyone to come here in the future.

We still have another 3 days in Vietnam before we depart for Bangkok, so its off to a bus/boat sightseeing trip all the way to Hanoi.

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For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.