Sights and Activities in Cat Ba
Posted Date: 11/5/20137:12 AM
Cat Ba lies on a major migration route for waterfowl, which feed and roost on the beaches in the mangrove forests. There are 745 species of plants recorded on Cat Ba, including 118 timber species and 160 plants with medicinal value. The park is also home to a species of tree called Cay Kim Giao. In ancient days, kings and nobles would eat only with chopsticks made from this timber, as anything poisonous it touches is reputed to turn the light-coloured wood to black
Cat Ba Langur
A guide is not mandatory, but is definitely recommended if you want to go walking; otherwise, all you are likely to see is a canopy of trees.
Two caves in and around the national park are open to visitors, Hospital Cave oozes historical significance, as it served as a secret, bomb-proof hospital during the American War. This cave is actually just outside the park and the entrance is located about 2 kilometres along the road to Cat Ba town. Hang Trung Trang (Trung Trang Cave) is easily accessible, but you will need to contact a ranger to make sure it is open. Bring a torch (flashlight) as it is gloomy inside.
There is a challenging 18km hike through the park and up to one of the mountain summits. Arrange a guide for this six-hour hike, and organize a bus or boat transport to the trailhead and a boat to get back to town. All of this can be easily organized with rangers at the national park headquarters or at the hotels in Cat Ba if you’re traveling independently. Many hikes end at Viet Hai, a remote minority village just outside the park boundary, from where boats shuttle back to Cat Ba town (about 250,000d per boat) Don’t get stranded or you’ll get stiffed. Take proper hiking shoes, a raincoat and a generous supply of water for this hike. Independent hikers can buy basic snacks at the kiosks in Viet Hai, which is where many hiking groups stop for lunch. This is not an easy walk, and is much harder and more slipper after rain. There are shorter hiking option; that are less hard core. If you’re planning to join an organized tour from Hanoi, check the trekking options before you book, as many of the cheaper trips don’t actually hike through the park at all.
To reach the national park headquarters at Trung Trang, take a minibus from one of the hotels in Cat Ba town (30 minutes) Another option is to hire a motorbike.
The white-sand Cat Co beaches (simply called Cat Co I, Cat Co 2 and Cat Co 3) used to be great places to lounge around for the day. However, 1 and 3 have been taken over by new resorts, leaving Cat Co 2 as the only sane and safe haven. There is also simple accommodation here. It is accessible via a wooden cliff side walkway around the mountain from Cat Co 1.
Cat Co 1 in summer
On weekends the beaches fill up with Vietnamese tourists and litter becomes a real blight, but during the week the crowds diminish.
The beaches are about 1km southeast from Cat Ba town over a steep headland, and can be reached on foot or by motorbike.
Other beaches include Cai Vieng, Hong Xoai Be and Hong Xoai Lon.
Cat Ba Town
A sleepy fishing village just a decade ago, it is now the Costa del Cat Ba! Since being ‘discovered’ by Hanoi residents. Cat Ba has turned into highly popular summer getaway, filling up on weekend and holidays, when the town is jumping. This has been a boon for the range of amenities available, from hotels to restaurants, hit the downside is a boom in karaoke joints and the tuneless wailing they often emit. During the summer the town also fills up with cars, as Hanoi residents use the car ferries to come via Cat Hal. Weekdays are saner as is just before or just after the peak season.