Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

Tag: travel

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. 😄

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. ⛵

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. 😎

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 café 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! 🔥

                                             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. 💪

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! 😁

 

 

 

 

 

How I Spent a Day in Cardiff, Wales

Is the idea of chilling in a park, visiting some castles, reading in a café, eating by the bay and shopping in an arcades sound like a good weekend? If so, then Cardiff might be your place.

Cardiff is a big city with modern buildings, lively waterfront, blended with Victorian architectures, old shopping arcades and decorated by big parks. You should spend a proper weekend there. It’s pretty sweet! However, for this post, I want to share with you how I spent a Spring day in Cardiff on my own, walking on foot, exploring.

I arrived at Cardiff Coach Station in Sophia Gardens late evening and from there I walked for about 30 minutes to Nomad Backpacker at Howard Gardens. Along the way, I got to admire the sight of the lit-up Cardiff Castle and experienced the busy Queen Street.

After a good sleep, I woke up quite early, grabbed something to eat at Sainsbury’s, and headed off to my first stop, the Llandaff Cathedral. It took me about an hour to get there. I was stunned by how nice this place is. It’s slightly ruined, with magnificent architecture. The surrounding was peaceful and the Cathedral itself is quite charming. I also spent sometime relaxing by the Llandaff Meadow, along River Taff as well.

After a good rest by the river, I took off and aimed for Bute Park, using Feeder Canal Trail, walking through Gorsedd Gardens for about half an hour, then stopping at Cardiff National Museum, City Hall and Crown Court.

After a couple of snaps, I kept walking a bit further and ended up at the Cardiff Castle. The castle is massive and it’s beautifully decorated by towers, giving the place a classy edge.

When I was satisfied exploring the massive castle, I was just walking around until I came across the Cathays Cemetery. Then, I followed all the dogs and their owners into Roath Park, got myself an ice-cream and relaxed by the massive lake. I was entertained by a little boy, who was constantly throwing tennis ball into the lake for his dog to swim and pick it up. The park was packed with couples, children, dogs and runners. It was a lively day filled with energy. 🙌

After I finally managed to get my lazy arse off the ground, I made my way toward the city centre. The first stop I made was at the YHA Cardiff Central, because that’s where I spent my night. So, I was just dropping off my stuff.

With lighter feet, I walked to Bute East Dock, stopped for few pictures of the reflected houses above the water, continued my journey toward the bay and made another stop at Wales Millennium Centre. The architecture of this arts centre is quite artsy but the interior is amazing! It’s so glamorous and classy.

I also spent sometime walking around the area, exploring places like Merchant Place, Roald Dahl Plass, Senedd and Pierhead. I decided that I’d stop for food at the Mermaid Quay, so that’s how I walk around, finding a place to eat. 🍔

After a big meal, I kept walking, sticking to the right until I found the Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve. It’s a wetlands reserve in the middle of the city centre and it’s very green! They have done an amazing job looking after this place. I was very impressed.

Save on your hotel - www.hotelscombined.com

My next destination of the day was Penarth Marina, so from the wetlands reserve, I kept walking and crossed the bridge twice until I found the Dolly Steps, which is the entrance to the Alexandra Park. I enjoyed walking through this park a lot because there weren’t many people and it’s beautifully decorated with smaller gardens and the Penarth War Memorial. I took the exit to the Bridgeman Road and found the stunning Penarth Pier.

I spent a lot of time walking along the esplanade and had my early dinner by the pier. Once I was ready, I headed to the left of the pier on Beach Road, continued to Windsor Road and took one right onto Harbour View Road, High Street and finally stopped at the Paget Road.

At the Paget Road, I was stunned by the sight of Cardiff Bay under the golden sunset skies, with the elegance marina. It’s a perfect lookout point, because of the distance and the height. The view that you’ll be rewarded is amazing. It’s honestly my favorite spot of this Cardiff trip. I was a bit unfortunate that my phone was out of battery, otherwise I could show you the picture. Though, you should definitely check it out if you are gonna be exploring Penarth.

Because I saw the lit-up Cardiff Bay in front of me, so that’s where I headed to next. I crossed Cardiff Bay Barrage, with the bay on my left and the channel on my right. On the Tardis Walk, I walked toward the Doctor Who Experience, which was closed by the time I arrived, but still, it’s better than nothing. 😂

I founded the Norwegian Church Arts Centre at the Britania Park and tried to figure my way back to the hostel. I was a bit tired. Because my phone was out of battery and I had no map on me, it took me an hour to get back to my accommodation when it should only take about half an hour. Though, It was great fun and I enjoyed it a lot.

The next morning, I made few more stops before going to catch the bus to my next destination. The first stop was for some quick breakfast, then to St Mary Church, the Parish of Saint Paula Grangetown and finally the Principality Stadium.

From the stadium, I walked the Millennium Walk by the river, then crossed the bridge into Sophia Gardens and the National Express Coach Station was my final stop.

Even though I didn’t spend that much time in Cardiff, it’s still one of the very memorable trip for me, especially the view of Cardiff Bay from Paget Road during the sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

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