Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

Category: SE Asia (Page 1 of 2)

HANOI – CAT BA – HALONG BAY, Vietnam on a Budget

Are you thinking about going from Hanoi to Halong Bay but you’re not sure how to enjoy it with a happy wallet? I hope this post will give you some ideas as I’m going to tell you how I enjoyed my trip to Halong Bay. ūüėĄ

You can skip to the next bit if you already know about Halong Bay and definitely are going there but if you want a bit more convincing then please do read my rambling part. It’s not too long…

Halong Bay is packed with beauty, legend, culture and history. If you don’t know already, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage and a second winner of the New 7 Wonders of Nature for 2007.

This “Bay of Descending Dragons” is 120 kilometres long and throughout this distance, there are thousands of limestones islands. Some are small and some are big enough to settle down. Though, thousands of people chose not to live on these islands. There are four floating fishing villages among these islets and islands. It’s amazing to think that they live like that, doing everyday things like buying fresh ingredients, cooking, eating and repeating all of this to many levels cooler than how I live.¬†As an addition to this already too cool not to witness, there are also many traditional Junk Boats, with colorful masts that perfectly contrast the blue of this bay. ‚õĶ

How I went to Halong Bay?

I did some research before flying to Hanoi. I ended up with confused head because there are too many ways to visit Halong Bay, from 3 days cruise, party cruise, a private cruise and more. Many of these choices are too expensive for me and some are not very convenience with my time.

So, I decided that I’d go from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island, which is the largest island of Halong Bay. Then from there, I’ll cruise to the Halong Bay!

From Hanoi to Cat Ba Island with Good Morning Cat Ba
  • Pick up and drop off at hotels
  • Leaves Hanoi at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • 3 hours trip
  • 32 USD for return ticket

I came across www.goodmorningcatba.com and contacted them through Facebook Messenger. They offer a package that pick you up from your hotel around Old Quarter streets of Hanoi, take care of all your belongings and take you to Tan Vu. Here is where you hop off the bus and jump on the speed boat and after 10 minutes, you’ll arrive at the¬†Cat Ba Island, where they drop you off at your accommodation in town as well!

Save on your hotel - www.hotelscombined.com

Things to do in Cat Ba Island
  • Rent a scooter and see the Lan Ha Bay
  • Observe cultures at temples and markets
  • Visit the Cannon Fort
  • Explore the Hospital Caves¬†and its National Park
  • Relax by Cat Co beaches

When I was doing all my bookings. I planned to stay in Cat Ba for a day because I only think of it as a stopover, but then I extended my stay. There are so many things to do and see here. Cat Ba is just as amazing as Halong Bay itself.¬†ūüėé

I’d recommend renting a scooter or a bicycle to go around the island. The view along the coast by Lan Ha Bay is stunning. There are many fishing boats and few floating restaurants if you are keen on some seafood munch. Otherwise, you could also eat like a local at their market, which opens until very late. You can also localize to a spiritual level by visiting their temples. Please dress appropriately, though they are not too strict about clothing.

                                                                     Floating restaurants

My favourite spot of Cat Ba is at the Cannon Fort. It gives you the view of the harbour and the bay. There is a small caf√© up here, which is pretty nice after a walk around. Another cool place to visit is the Hospital Cave. The name is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a three-storey bomb-proof hospital inside a cave that was built in the 70s. It’s definitely worth paying 40,000 VND for. The entrance is right by the Cat Ba National Park!

If you are looking for a place to relax after all this, simply chose a number from 1 to 3. There are three main beaches on the island, Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2 and Cat Co 3. All of them are located by resorts but you can still hang around and even order some cocktails into the mix. At Cat Co 3, there is a cliff-side walking trail that’ll take you to Cat Co 2. I went up there after the swim, so I was barefoot and it wasn’t a smart idea. The floor is pretty sharp and hot! ūüĒ•

                                             Cliff-side walking trail between Cat Co 3 and Cat Co 2

I was staying at the Bay View Hotel. It’s close to the night market and the harbour. There is a restaurant on site and they arrange scooter rentals as well. I also booked my day trip to Halong Bay with them. Upon booking, make sure prices of everything are included.

                                  View from the walking trail between Cat Co 2 and Cat Co 3

Halong Bay – 1 Day Trip
  • Fishing Village
  • Monkey Island

Cat Ba Island is a very good departure spot to cruise the Halong Bay. It’s pretty close and there are many boats leaving the island every day! This makes it easy to modify your schedule or design your own excursion.

I decided to go on a full day trip, which they picked me up at Bay View Hotel at 8 a.m., took me to the pier, got me on a Junk Boat and took me through islands and islets of Halong Bay. We did cruise through a Fishing Village and I was in awe!

After some time of cruising, the boat stoped. We got off the boat, jumped on our Kayak and spent around an hour rowing through some limestone bridges and holes. ¬†It’s beautiful and I enjoyed it with every sore arms. ūüí™

After we got back on the boat, they took us to an enclosed bay, where they started serving us lunch, which was much-needed after how little we’ve done. Once we were satisfied and all, we swam from the boat to a small island that has a small beach where we sun bathed or we could just snorkel around the bay too.

We spent few hours there, then the boat took us to the¬†Monkey Island! This was the highlight of my trip, with monkeys on the white sandy beach! I couldn’t think of a better way to end my trip! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! ūüėĀ

 

 

 

 

 

KOH PHANGAN: An Island in the Gulf of Thailand

Koh Phangan is one of the most popular islands in Thailand. Not only because it houses the world’s famous party but also because of what it has to offer naturally. It’s a place for all preferences. There’s something for everyone.

Please click here to read more.

 

It’s very close to Koh Samui and they share similar features, especially the weather and transportation.

You could check out my previous post about Koh Samui here.

Top Beaches in Koh Phangan
  • Mae Haad Beach
  • Koh Ma
  • Chaloklum Bay
  • Thong Nai Pan
  • Haad Thong Reng
  • Haad Nam Tok
  • Haad Rin
  • Baan Tai

The sand bar of Mae Haad Beach links the main island with Ma Island.

 

The clear water in the area of Koh Ma.

 

The beach by the main pier at Thong Sala in Koh Phangan is a great place to relax after the journey or before saying goodbye to this island.

 

Baan Tai Beach taken with an analog camera; Minolta A3

 

 The finest sand of Baan Tai Beach

This amazing sunset was shot at Baan Tai Beach area in front of our resort.

Top Waterfalls in Phangan
  • Paradise Waterfall
  • Thaan Prawet Waterfall
  • Thaan Sadet Waterfall
  • Thaan Praphad Waterfall
  • Phaeng Waterfall

Phaeng Waterfall

Activities that You Should Try While in Phangan
  • Full Moon Party at Haad Rin
  • Wakeboarding at Wake Up! Wakeboarding
  • Wipeout at the Challenge Koh Phangan
  • Daytime party at Slip N Fly
  • Kiteboarding with Breeze Kiteboarding

 

 

These things make Koh Phangan so special and I can confidently say that you’ll never get enough of this island.

Please click here to read the full article.

 

 

 

 

 

KOH SAMUI: An Island in the Gulf of Thailand

Koh Samui is one of the very famous islands, mainly because there is everything for everyone. Samui is Thailand’s second largest island and it houses all the good things, from lit parties to buddhist temples and fishing village. It can be a bit confusing, so let us help you through it.

 

When to go?

Samui features a tropical climate so it’s pretty humid and warm all year round with the average temperature of 28 degree Celsius. The driest months with least rainfall would be February to April, whereas months with heaviest rainfall are September to November. Though, the rest of the year, some rain is expected.

 

How to get there?

1. Plane

There is an airport in Koh Samui (USM) in which you could fly directly from Bangkok, other domestic cities and from few other countries as well. There are also few airports nearby, like the ones in Chumpon and Surat Thani.

2. Ferries

  • Seatran Ferry
    • Donsak – Nathon
  • Raja Ferry
    • Donsak – Lipa Noi

There are 2 ferry services from Surat Thani to Koh Samui, which both of them operate hourly from 5 a.m. – 7 p.m. and journeys are about 1 hour 30 minutes. Ferry is good for those who are connecting from closer towns or for those with vehicles.

Seatran Ferry takes you between Donsak pier in Surat Thani and Nathon pier in Koh Samui. Meanwhile, Raja Ferry Port takes you between Donsak pier and Lipa Noi pier in Koh Samui.

3. High Speed Catamaran

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Lomprayah’s High Speed Catamaran

Lomprayah is a company that operates High Speed Catamaran between many tourist destinations, including Samui Island. The service of Lomprayah includes all transits like airport transfer, buses, trains and piers. They offer many routes and tours to choose from as well.

Lomprayah also offers free transfers and pick-ups between your hotels and the piers for those who book the ticket through their official website; www.lomprayah.com. This kind service is only for those in Koh Samui.

 

How to get around?

1. Airport Transfer

There are several van services that take you and other passengers to hotels and they are always there for all flights.

2. Public Buses

Buses in Koh Samui are red pick-ups with specific route labeled. These local buses costs around 20 baht to 100 baht, depending on the distance. However, they do charge a bit more during the night hours. Remember to check the price with the driver before you hop on.

3. Songthaews (Taxis)

These Taxis look pretty much the same as local buses but they have no sign of their specific routes. These Songthaews have no fixed price and they don’t work with metres, so you’ll have to negotiate with the driver before you hop on. This could be a cheaper alternative if you have a lot of companies.

5. NaviGo Samui

This is a mobile Taxi application, just like Uber. It’s a cheaper alternative as fares are metered. It’s a very convenience option for those with Internet data.

6. Motorbikes

You can rent motorbikes with many rental providers and it shouldn’t cost you more than 200 baht for a day. To rent one, the provider will usually take your passport as the deposit.¬†There are many gas stations and shops that sell gasoline by bottles around the island.

7. Bicycles

They are few bicycle rental places in Samui and there are even areas where there is proper bicycle lane.

8. Cars

If you are traveling in a big group or with family and you plan to go around the island a lot, then you might want to consider car rental. They are many providers, including Avis. Fares should be around 1,300 baht to 1,500 for a day. Again, they might take your passport as the deposit.

 

Where to go?

  • Chaweng Beach
    • Green Mango Street
    • Paris Follies Cabaret
    • Ark Bar Beach Resort
    • Football Golf Club
    • Aquapark
    • Wat Khao Hua Jook Temple
    • Central Festival
    • Chaweng Night Market
  • Lamai Beach
    • Grandmother and Grandfather Rock (Hin Ta and Hin Yai)
    • Thong Takian Beach (Silver Beach)
      • Snorkeling
  • Mae Nam Beach
    • Pink Elephant Samui Water Park
  • Bo Phut Beach
    • Wat Phra Yai Temple (Big Buddha Temple)
    • Lad Koh Viewpoint
    • Fisherman’s Village Walking Street
    • Coco Tams
  • Laem Set Beach
  • Taling Ngam Beach
  • Hin Lad Waterfall
  • Na Muang Waterfalls

The most popular beach of Samui is definitely Chaweng Beach. Apart from great sand range, it’s also the house of all big parties and nightclubs, especially at Green Mango Street. You might also want to check out Paris Follies Cabaret.

The most famous bar is also here; the Ark Bar Beach Resort. You don’t have to stay here to enjoy the best party on the island. This is the place if you want to chill and drink around pool table with your mates. You can even arrange your own tournament. But when you are ready, the beach dance floor is all yours. They even have the fire dance show!

 

If you are up for some fun, you might want to spend your time at Football Golf Club. Here, you don’t use club to hit the ball, you just kick it. It’s really simple and good for everyone. But, if you want to stay on the beach and surrounded by warm water¬†then you might like Aquapark. There are massive inflatables, which are¬†not only great for kids.

However, if you want a little bit of culture, you might want to visit Wat Khao Hua Jook Temple. The pagoda stands tall and elegant. This place also offers a great view of the beach.

But if the heat becomes too much and you want to be inside an air-conditioned shopping complex, then you could spend few hours shopping or eating at Central Festival Koh Samui. However, if you are looking for cheaper and great food then Chaweng Night Market is a place for you. There are street foods, drinks and souvenirs.

At Lamai Beach, there are also many bars and nightclubs but what makes Lamai famous are two genital-shaped rocks; Hin Ta and Hin Yai. These rocks form a small and transparent pool in the middle.

Within the area of Lamai, there is a small beach; Thong Takian Beach. It’s not very known, so there is not many people here. This is a golden secret location as you can bring your own snorkeling equipments and explore! There are also few scuba diving centres.

Mae Nam Beach is the quieter beach in Samui, so a walk along the beach is just amazing. Personally, I think this is the cleanest beach in Samui. In the area, there is¬†Pink Elephant Samui Water Park. Again, it’s great for kids and for those who just want to drink beers and relax in an adult-only Jacuzzi area.

At Bo Phut Beach, there is Wat Phra Yai Temple, which is a place you shouldn’t miss. There is a massive buddha that can be seen from many viewpoints, but at this temple, by the Buddha, you can witness some great view as well.

However, for me the best viewpoint in Samui is the Lad Koh Viewpoint. This is because there are short trekking routes taking you from the road to the rocky curves and formations that you could carefully explore. It looks really good!

If you’re up for a more relaxed night out, Bo Phut is the place as there is the Fisherman’s Village. Here, you could spend your night walking around, getting some drinks and absorb evidences of fishermen’s life. The most amazing beach bar right by the village is the Coco Tams. It’s an easy-going place with tents, pillows, swings and beanbags for you to sit and relax. They also have shisha.

Leam Set Beach is one of the smaller beaches with little people. It has white sand area, but the water can be a bit tricky to swim as only 100 metres out in the water, there is a shallow coral reef. So, if you are not an expert or if you are with small kids, I’d suggest some sort of feet protection so you don’t cut yourself while swimming or snorkeling.

Taling Ngam Beach is another option for those who really want to relax. It’s about an hour by car away from other main beaches like Chaweng. Here, you can see more traditional houses and less luxurious resorts.

If you feel like switching into soaking up the fresh water, then there are 2 waterfalls in Samui for you. Firstly, Hin Lad Waterfall offers a small jungle trail and refreshing pool to sink in. It’s so much fun to explore the area and visit the Hin Lad Temple. Along the way, there are pretty walking paths.

The other bigger waterfall is Na Muang Falls. It’s massive! You’ll enjoy swimming, hiking, picnicking and seeing some animals as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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