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.
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.
1. Cat Ba National Park, April 2018. Having walked the town harbour, hung out on pretty Cat Co Cove 3 Beach, taken in the awesome views from The Cannon Fort and explored the eerie corridors of The Hospital Cave, it was time for me to tackle Cat Ba Island’s island’s main draw, the gorgeous World Heritage-stamped mountain trails of Cat Ba National Park.
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.
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.
1. Cat Ba Cannon Fort, April 2018. Feeling a bit disillusioned with the grubby main drag of Cat Ba Town? Fear not, there are several spots of real beauty within walking distance. The pick of the bunch is the island’s historical cannon fort. Follow the signs from the town and work your way up a hill to the fort’s ticketed entrance.
1. Ho Chi Minh Complex, April 2018. Visitors to Hanoi should set aside a whole morning and a good chunk of the afternoon for all things Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s much-loved father of independence. Having paid my respects to Uncle Ho’s embalmed body at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the next step was to tour this complex, where the great man lived and worked as president during the mid 1950s until his death in 1969. My self-guided wander started here outside The Presidential Palace, built by French colonialists in the early 1900s before being taken over by the Vietnamese government in 1954.