After a terrific ferry journey through the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, studded with thousands of towering limestone islands, we arrived to Cat Ba Island.
The island is a great place to explore for a few days and has interesting things to do and see, but our advice is to avoid the main Cat Ba town.
The town is a tourist hot spot, very crowded, noisy and overbuilt. If you can, look for a quieter spot to stay a few miles outside of town.
Exploring Cat Ba Island on a motorbike
One of the best ways to explore Cat Ba Island is by motorbike. Prices might vary from place to place, but it should cost you around 110,000 VND ($4.90 USD) to rent one for the day plus around 40,000 VND ($ 1.79 USD) for a tank full of petrol, but it’s really worth it.
We really loved exploring the island on the motorbike, seeing how the soaking rice fields and lush jungly surroundings suddenly merged with rocky roads.
It was nice to see that a fair bit of the island is still very natural and pretty rugged in places. However a lot of excavating work is taking place further away from the main town. The island is changing and the progress is quite fast. We hope Cat Ba will keep some of its stunning natural beauty.
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Hospital Cave – a must see cave on the island
At 30,000 VND ($1.30 USD) per person, the Hospital Cave is well worth a visit. You can visit the cave with a guide or on your own.
There is no official guide at the entrance, but if you are lucky enough, you might get a local guy walk you through the manmade tunnels. We weren’t that lucky and explored the cave by ourselves. Spooky nonetheless.
The cave is located around 10 km north of Cat Ba town and easily spotted by a big sign by the main road. The ticket box is on the opposite side from the cave. There is a parking lot and a Vietnamese restaurant, if feeling peckish.
The 3 storey, impressive concrete bomb proof cave was constructed between 1963 and 1965 and used a hospital during the Vietnam (American) war.
There are 17 rooms in total and an old operating theatre. Make sure you climb the staircase leading up to the natural cavern which was once used as cinema.
We really enjoyed exploring the Hospital Cave and recommend a trip to this historic site if you’re on the island.
Exploring the historic Cannon Fort
At 177 meters above sea level, Canon Fort can be a great hiking experience, but climbing up hill with our little scooter was no effort. You can scoot all the way up to the site and park your bike in the designated parking area. The admission fee is 40,000 ($ 1.79 USD) per person.
Due to it’s prime location, the Cannon Fort was successfully used during 3 wars, by the Japanese during WWII, the French during the Indochina War, and the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. It’s an interesting site to visit, well preserved and clearly marked.
We had a nice and slow stroll through the narrow passageways, the dark U tunnel, small rooms and ended up next to real size canon with soldier mannequins around it. Quite a view!
Here is a quick video of our day at the Cannon Fort.
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Panoramic views atop the Divine Fortress
As you explore the Canon Fort, don’t forget to enjoy the scenic views of Cat Ba Island from the High Point 177 or Divine Fortress. It was very foggy on our arrival, but the views were still stunning.
A rule of thumb in foggy conditions is to wait for the fog to shift. It always works for us. We sat on the bench for just a few minutes until the fog cleared revealing the beautiful view across the bay.
Have you been to Cat Ba Island? What was your favourite thing on the island? Did you rent a motorbike to explore it? Let us know in the comments.
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