The quirky journey from Hanoi to Cat ba island, Vietnam

by - 8/29/2023

Beautiful murals in the Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi

 For the travel novice, Vietnam is known just for Ha Long Bay. Even though this quaint nation has so much to offer, those limestone cliffs in the sea attract millions of tourists from all over the world every year. Vietnam has a long coastline and in order to reach the coast, one has to travel quite a lot from the capital city of Hanoi. Ours was quite a journey. We had a red eye from Delhi, which meant we were not only awake the whole night but out of the house way before night time and we landed in Hanoi at 5 in the morning. Travelling with a toddler and an eight year old along with my elderly parents did not make it easy for us. Everyone was sleep deprived and hence cranky. But little they knew that the journey ahead was way more challenging.

The Vietnam Japan Friendship Bridge (Nhat Tan Bridge) linking Noi Bai Airport and Hanoi City
The sidewalks are always busy, bustling with diners sitting on tiny chairs..

So we had a drive to the city centre of Hanoi , where there was the bus stop. From there we were supposed to board the Cat Ba express, which would take us to the Hai Phong Ferry terminal. From there we had to take the ferry to the port of Cat Ba island. And from there again the Cat Ba Express bus, which would take us to the nearest stop of our hotel; from where we had to walk. Phew! when this was explained to my sleep deprived, jet lagged mom, she almost fainted 😂
Vendors on bicycles selling bok choy and fruits

We reached the bus stop at Hanoi at around half past seven. Our Cat Ba express was scheduled at 10 : 30 AM. This meant a waiting time of 3 hours. My husband (the planner) rarely decides to waste a single moment of travel period. He had planned for a walk in the Hanoi old quarters during those two hours. So we made my Mom sit at the reception of the Cat Ba Express office and we five set on a heritage walk.

Did you notice the people eating in the background?

It was half past seven in the morning only but the city was bustling with breakfast eaters, beverage drinkers and vendors on bicycles, wearing the quintessential Vietnam hats. The fascinating part was to see the locals eat. I guess they are highly social; because that is what we learned from the rest of our trip. They eat all their meals outside, God knows with their family or friends or both. They sit on these tiny little chairs and eat pho with chopsticks. And the smell of food emanating from all around was tempting to me but nauseating for my vegetarian family members. We thought of picking up some food for the go, but we could not find anything that would suit our buds!

The bus arrived at the office at 10 30 AM sharp. Then our journey started. We kept going for 2 hours. Then they stopped for brunch at a plaza. We were already famished as we were surviving on airplane food. We ordered two plates of rice (one with fish and the other with egg) and just when we got comfortable in the food court and started digging in, our guide asked us to hurry, to that extent that he did not leave our sides till we left our food and got up. They gave us just 15 mins for eating plus washroom!!

We again got back into the bus and after after an hour, we reached the Hair Phong ferry terminal. There we boarded the ferry and off we started navigating the first water body of the trip. It was a 10 minute ferry ride and the fresh sea air absolutely rejuvenated us. We could see the Cat Ba island as soon as we got into the boat.

Elated to be on the ferry!

After disembarking from the boat, again we got up in the Cat Ba Express bus, now on the island. It was a 40 minute ride through cliffs and jungles and the Cat Ba National park. It was quite a bumpy ride but most of it was along the South China Sea, which made it uber cool. Finally we got down in front of our resort at around half past two. We were dead exhausted but the surroundings immediately pepped our moods up! The bus stop was along the sea promenade, from where we could see the limestone cliffs already. And right in front of our resort, there was the 'I heart Cat Ba ' sign+ garden. Our joy knew no bounds. We had already imagined how exciting would be our stay ahead!

The park and the sea promenade just outside our resort

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023 

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