My 5: Monkey Island – Halong Bay, Vietnam.

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1. Monkey Island, April 2018. I really enjoyed my boat tour with Green Trail! Beginning with a cruise through the peaceful waters of Lan Ha Bay, we eventually reached Halong Bay, Northern Vietnam’s most famous waters. There  we were treated to swimming, kayaking and a delicious feast of freshly prepared local food. On the way back to Cat Ba Island we made one final stop at Monkey Island, with its small, pretty beach and rocky mountain trail.

2. Monkey Island, April 2018. Just about every boat tour going stops at Monkey Island, so whether you like it or not, chances are you’ll end up here for an hour or so. Luckily, it wasn’t that busy when we stopped by on a late afternoon weekday late afternoon. And the beach itself, with its wooden hut restaurant, was much cleaner than expected.

3. Monkey Island, April 2018. True to its name, Monkey Island offers plenty of… monkeys. If you’ve never got up and close and personal with wild monkeys then you’ll no doubt be intrigued. As it happens, my extended trips around Asia have left be a bit monkeyed-out. A word of caution, as is often the case the monkeys are mischievous at best and more often than not downright hostile. These monkeys were hopping around all over the place digging their faces into discarded beer cans and ice cream wrappers, while one or two started hissing and even lunging at curious bystanders.

4. Monkey Island, April 2018. The highlight of my brief visit to Monkey Island was the short but tricky walk up to the mountain peak. Doing this in flip-flops is NOT advised and frankly it’s a miracle I made it up to the top without breaking my ankle. The views from the top are very decent indeed.

5. Monkey Island, April 2018. I can’t recommend Green Trail enough as your trusted Halong Bay guide. For more info on the tour I took, check out My 5s on the Lan Ha Bay and Halong Bay segments of the cruise.

Like these? Then take a look at my other articles from Cat Ba Island.

And I’ve written many more 5s from all over Vietnam.

My 5: Halong Bay Cruise, Vietnam.

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1. Halong Bay Cruise, April 2018. After a few gloriously peaceful hours cruising around the beautiful Lan Ha Bay, Green Trail’s day-long boat tour chugged into the much better known Halong Bay. So what’s the difference? Basically nothing! The spectacular limestone peak scenery is just the same; just expect more water traffic with an increased number of speedboats, houseboats and traditional junks competing for space.

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My 5: Lan Ha Bay Cruise, Vietnam.

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1. Lan Ha Bay Cruise, April 2018. As beautiful as Cat Ba Island is, for most visitors the main reason to come out here is for a boat cruise through the region’s spectacular Lan Ha & Halong bays. Choose your tour operator VERY CAREFULLY, as the scene is riddled with tricksters and scammers. Some have shoddy boats not fit for purpose, others blatantly lie to you about the itinerary, either rushing you through key points of interest or even skipping the highlights completely. After much research I opted for a cruise with the highly rated Green Trail, who have an office on the main drag in Cat Ba Town.

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My 5: Sweet Potato Homestay – Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

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1. Sweet Potato Homestay, April 2018. If I could only give one piece of advice to someone planning a trip to Cat Ba Island, it would be a categorical “Don’t stay in Cat Ba Town!!!” Check out My 5 on Cat Ba Town for more info. Instead, base yourself at one of the many charming guesthouses out on the island’s deep country lanes. You’ll be closer to The National Park and the Hospital Cave, while your nighttime meal comes with the gentle backdrop of buzzing grasshoppers. My Cat Ba base was the excellent Sweet Potato Homestay, a family-owned hostel famed for its laid-back vive and friendly service.

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My 5: The Hospital Cave – Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

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1. The Hospital Cave, April 2018. Whether you’re staying on Cat Ba Island or just nipping in and out on a whistle stop boat tour, do try and make time for this curious Vietnam War site, set deep in the countryside about three kilometers from the entrance gates to Cat Ba National Park.

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My 5: Cat Co Cove 3 Beach – Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

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1. Cat Co Cove 3, April 2018. The trail to Cat Ba Town’s three beaches is just a ten-minute walk from the main drag. Interconnected via a gorgeous walking trail cut into the cliffs, I’d originally intended to visit all three, starting here at the modest sliver of beach known as Cat Co Cove 3. But on arrival I discovered that beaches and 2 and 3 were closed for renovation. Ah, nuts.

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My 5: Cat Ba Town – Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

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1. Cat Ba Town, April 2018. At first glance, Cat Ba Island’s overdeveloped main drag is little more than an uninspiring stretch of toothy low-rises, beat-heavy bars, tout-inhabited tour offices and kebab carts. Easily the least impressive area of the island, I’m amazed that so many visitors choose to base themselves here. Having set myself up at a charming hostel out in the rugged countryside, it was nevertheless comforting to come into town for dinner at one of a handful of excellent cafes.

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