Cat Ba Island: Street food and what to do.
Cat Ba island is a bigger, less touristy version of Ha Long Bay. The scenery is so similar you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Plus it is A LOT cheaper. We were in Cat Ba for 2 weeks volunteering at The Cat Ba Langur Hostel 2, it’s a cute family run hostel and we were very, very looked after. You can find them on Help X: http://www.helpx.net/host.asp?hostid=43598
Cat Ba is a great place to spend 3 days. We took a 1 day boat tour, hiked through the national park, hired a kayak, enjoyed the street food and cheap beer.
What to do:
Boat Tours – There are various different companies offering the same tour, just find the one you gel with. I think avoid going for the cheapest ones ($12USD) as you find they lack in customer service, quality equipment and decent food. We paid $16USD and everything was decent enough. We were taken passed the floating villages, kayaked for an hour, swum for an hour in a nice spot where you can snorkel, although the water is not clear and there is nothing to see anyway. Then last stop was Monkey Island, there is a crazy walk up to the peak. It has no actual path at the top so people are scrambling passed, stuck as close to the spiky rocks as possible, as it actually is very dangerous. I would not want to fall, or trip. Flexible sports shoes are definitely recommended as flip flops looked like an added unnecessary challenge. As for the monkeys… they are angry and drunk, they steal beers and anything else they can get their hands on. Watch out!
Hire a Kayak: If you want to go to Monkey Island with out the crowds you can hire a Kayak for the day for around 150,000VND from the ‘ name of quay ’ takes about 40mins. (150,000VND includes: port ticket, dry bag and life jacket) We didn’t go back to angry monkey island but we had a fantastic day exploring other islands, sandy beaches, secret coves and kayaking through the open waters. Very beautiful! Take sunscreen, water and a picnic.
Sunset on Cannon Fort: Be sure to catch the sunset at cannon fort, its 20,000VND entry but there is a café up the top and huge cannons and tunnels to explore left over from the war. We were lucky enough to watch the super moon rise here, plus there is a telescope which meant we could clearly make out the craters on the moon. It was beautiful!
Family Dinner at Cat Ba Langur Hostel 2, we found the best meal on Cat Ba was at the hostel we were staying at. Duan, the cook makes an incredible spread to share with the other guests every night. It’s great because you get to meet other travellers, the beer is cheap and it’s a really lovely environment. Night after night we were blessed with family dinner, we tried to eat out at other restaurants but it really didn’t compare! 80,000VND per person let them know by 5pm if you are going to be joining them for dinner at 6:30pm.
Coconut Coffee Frappe at Like Coffee: An indulgence by a mile but seriously delicious! Its on the main drag with a big red sign ‘LIKE COFFEE’
Go there when you have a bit of time because the service is slow…Staff are lovely.
We found the top spots to get the best on offer in Cat ba, below is a map with the cheapest, yummiest street food…
Bánh cuốn: (fermented steamed rice pancake, served with herbs, broth and meat)
The woman behind this delight has been steaming rice pancakes for 30 years! She is an absolute pro, go there for 5:45pm to watch her set up as she makes it into an art form. She has her set to a T. For 40,000VND how can you go wrong!
Bia Hoi: Vietnamese beer, cheapest on cat ba, 7,000VND per mug. This place is just before the bridge on the left (marked on the map). They also serve a variety of Vietnamese beer snacks including fermented mince pork sticks, only for the strong stomached!!
Banh Xeo: Although the best Banh Xeo we had was in Hanoi, this wasn’t far off! Served from 3pm everyday, this side alley set up makes a mean Banh Xeo and only 15,000VND – we had seconds and then thirds… hard to say no!
Unfortunately the only downside we found was the incredible amount of rubbish. Bottles and plastic waste are scattered in every nook and cranny, very upsetting. Of course if you are well travelled in Asia you will already know of this issue. Cat Ba town itself is not very nice, it’s one row of cement hotels, restaurants and bars, with no charm. What makes up for it is the other untouched areas on the Island and the sunsets.