Hai Phong - Cat Ba
Posted Date: 11/8/20138:35 AM

Hai Phong is northern Vietnam's main port, and an important industrial and commercial center. 105km from Hanoi, Hai Phong is a beautiful city with much of the central colonial quarter still preserved. Many streets are bordered by flame flower trees, giving the city its other name 'city of flame flowers'. Hai Phong is also a good base for exploring other areas in the northeast such as Cat Ba and Halong bay.

In Hai Phong itself, the Du Hang temple, Hang Kenh communal house and the old quarter are worth visiting. Nearby Do Son beach is northern Vietnam's most popular seaside retreat. It even boasts a casino!

The Du Hang Pagoda
Since being established in the 17th century, worshippers at this pagoda reconstructed it many times. There is a 2 storey gate, statue of the Goddess of Mercy in the courtyard, many statues of Bodhisattvas, guardians and the wooden goddesses, and a lot of ancient furniture. The bells out the front are interesting.

The Hang Kenh Communal House
The boat shaped house has a beautiful facade, carved frames and pillars of precious wood. It was built in the 17th century. The central section is dedicated to King Ngo Quyen and his generals, who defeated the army of the great Kublai Khan no less, in the battle of the Bach Dang River in 938AD. This battle ended over 1,000 years of foreign rule in Vietnam.
Catba Island
A trip to Cat Ba island can be separated or combined with a visit to Halong Bay. This is the largest island in the Cat Ba Archipelago that consists of 350 limestone outcrops adjacent to Halong.

This is also an oasis where you can be apart for one or a few days during a long voyage. If starting from Halong Wharf it will take you 4 hours by a tourist boat, with stopovers for swimming, visiting spectacular karst and having fresh seafoods. In a single word, you can contemplate the beautiful scenery of Halong before reaching the island. 

You can also buy a ticket of the hydrofoil departing from Hai Phong Seaport to reach Cat Ba if your itinerary saves Halong for another visit. With an area of 356 square km wide, Cat Ba encompasses forested zones, coastal mangrove and freshwater swamps, beaches, caves, and waterfalls. In 1986, the Northeast side of the island was designated a National Park, including a protected marine zone. 

Cat Ba Island supports a population of over 20,000, most of whom live off fishing or farming in the South, in and around Cat Ba Town. The town is small and ancient, with clusters of fishing boats and inspiring sunsets across the harbor. You can check out the catch of the day in the early morning, see cuttlefish dried over hot charcoals, or stroll around the old town. 

It's a short hike from Cat Ba town through a tunnel to Cat Co Beach, whose mountains look like a throne holding a marvelous sandy coast, or if you hike further along, you will reach the rockier Cat Vang Beach. As transportation on the town is not so well-developed, motorbikes is the most helpful means to get you to the larger Trung Trang Cave with many chambers, or to the National Park, or to discover other beaches around the island. 

A tourguide is necessary to help you communicate with the local drivers and introduce these viewpoints. The national park contains stringy trees, thick undergrowth and slippery vines. There is a great view that includes a French, now Vietnamese, farming village from the top of the mountain and a lake in the middle of the park that takes a half day to reach.

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