Thousands of magnificent limestone formations, countless picturesque bays, clear turquoise waters and charming floating fishing villages are all on the agenda in Lan Ha Bay. No trip to Vietnam is complete without visiting this famous world heritage site and it’s definitely worth the hype.
Our base for exploring was the picturesque Cat Ba island. This turned into an adventure in itself, with incredible viewpoints to hike to and WW2 ruins to look around.
Lan Ha Bay Boat Tour
Our two day boat tour around Lan Ha Bay was a highlight from our time in Vietnam. We spoke to numerous travellers who all recommended visiting Lan Ha over the better known Ha Long Bay and this turned out to be invaluable advice. The closer we got towards Ha Long, the dirtier and busier it got.
Many hours were spent just sat on deck, mesmerised by the breathtaking scenery. The boat also had snorkelling gear and kayaks, so we were able to explore the bay under our own steam. We loved just finding little private beaches to relax on, or discovering dark cave passages that opened out into beautiful lagoons.
We also visited the awesome Monkey Island, where hundreds of mischievous monkeys freely roam around. The highlight is a viewpoint at the top of the island, but reaching it is no easy feat. You have to rock climb over sharp limestone rocks and we were unfortunately wearing flip flops! This is definitely not advisable, as there wasn’t much room for error. The views from the top are well worth the exertion, though, as we had a jaw dropping vantage point of the island and the crystal clear waters below.
The weather wasn’t on our side for our boat trip, as it heavily rained for the majority of the first day. Although this meant we were freezing every time we got into the water, it actually made for an eerie atmosphere that was great for photographs.
The second day was the polar opposite as it was scorching hot all day. The bay completely transformed, turning into a glistening paradise. We spent the majority of our time stood on deck, snapping away and enjoying the magnificent views. It was fantastic entertainment watching the scenery change, from tiny floating communities to vast bays.
Cat Ba Island
Although the majority of tourists visit the island purely as a base for a boat tour, Cat Ba has a surprisingly amount to offer. There are numerous vantage points to climb to, historical attractions and best of all, it’s still relatively underdeveloped.
Cat Ba Viewpoint
This viewport is located on the east side of the seafront (right next to Le Pont Bungalow hostel) and is definitely the best place in town to watch the sunset. Thanks to the great vantage point, you can watch the bay and town transform the most speculative shades of red.
The fort played a role in the Second World War, as cannons were positioned atop the hillside to protect Vietnam from enemy aircraft. The cannons and tunnels are still there to explore, making it an interesting way to pass a few hours. It’s also a great walk up from the town and there’s amazing views of Lan Ha Bay!
This cave held a prominent role in the island’s involvement in the American War. To protect their injured, they positioned the hospital high in the mountains and enforced the cave with concrete. The dark and dingy interior is far from appealing, so we really felt for the troops who had to spent several months inside.
Ngu Lam Mountain
This was definitely the sweatiest walk we did in Southeast Asia. We thought it would be a good idea to tackle the mountain in the midday heat – not advisable! The air was so sticky and there was no breeze at all. It took us well over an hour to reach the top and by the end, we were dehydrated and exhausted.
Despite this, it was well worth the sense of achievement. The views were out of this world and everywhere we looked, we were surrounded by spectacular green vistas.