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 

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’
hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla in collaboration with Outset Books

You May Also Like

20 comments

  1. That surely was a long, tiring trip to the island. But I guess, it was worth it. Your husband does truly have stamina, walking around for 2 hours before taking a bus journey. But I guess, holidays do that for us..they give us some surreal energy. Loved your pics.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It sounds like the journey itself was an adventure, and I'm sure the experiences and memories you made along the way were well worth the initial challenges.

    ReplyDelete
  3. After seeing so many posts of other vloggers or influencers on Instagram, I was really looking forward to your detailed account of this country. Just tell me two things, how do you remember so many details about your trip and get the energy to write about them? Secondly, did you organise the whole trip by yourself, the change of buses, etc or did you take a package tour?

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I dont remember the last time I have been on a trip. Goa was the last i guess. Pictures look lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Vietnam!! An exotic place to travel to. Your travelogues are so detailed and I keep coming back to them

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your pictures are so vivid they add to your way of sharing your travel stories.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey Mandira, I know you as an excellent travel blogger and you write your travel stories so beautifully that even one who never travelled also can vizualize every bit of the destination through your post. But how you manage to travel so much and that too with 2 young kids and Surgeon husband. It needs some special stamina and I really want to pat your back for that. Travelling for me is passion which makes me feel good and give me opportunity to know many places, culture and people out there. And when I read your blogs it gives me the kick to search for a new destination to explore. How old is your younger one now? Please share me tips of travelling with super naughty almost 1 and half year old kid. I badly need it or my travelling will get paused for long.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautiful pics...I'm sure you had a great trip. I love to read your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh my my... quirky it is Mandira... how on earth did u do this with two smallies, two elderly and a husband???ðŸĪŠ.
    I feel so sad that you had to leave that yummy food unfinished. And your mommy... poor lady... wonder how she passed her time while you guys were out doing the heritage walk.
    But I am so glad that the final destination made up for all the tiredness, sleeplessness, irritability and hunger. Wishing you many more of such quirky adventures😉
    Kaveri

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, your trip from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island, Vietnam sounds like quite an adventure! Many people think of Vietnam as just Ha Long Bay, but there's so much more to discover. Traveling with a little one and elderly parents on a red-eye flight must have been a challenge. But it seems like that ferry ride and seeing Cat Ba Island made it all worth it. Loved all your pics. Can't wait to hear more about your travels!

    ReplyDelete
  12. So tiny table and chair. Food look like Indian food means rice and curry. Does it taste like Indian? I always wonder how do we eat in Japan? I must say you are so travel enthusiast. Love your post. Keep posting and updating us.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I haven't heard abt this place, however the way you have mentioned does make it feel like a good place to plan for a visit. The food looks tempting in simplicity.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This year, we've explored Thailand and went to 3 different cities (one from North, city-center, and South). Hopefully next year, we could go visit Vietnam next so see how great of a place it is. I've been hearing good places to visit. Would include Cat Ba in my to-go list.-MommyWithAGoal

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is quite an experience. Kudos to you and your family to take it in your stride. Looks like the resort was worth it. Lovely pics as always.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Got to hand it to you, Mandira. I would have probably lost it if someone was rushing me. Vietnam has been on my bucket list for the longest time. Hope to visit it soon.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Your trip reminded me of our latest trip to Thailand. Your journey seems very exhausting but as long as all the family members are up for this only it is advisable or else the person planning the trip will be bombarded with all the crankiness and cribbing.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I went to Vietnam in June and omg I absolutely loved that country. Its so vibrant and the cultural programs that I attended were just amazing. So glad to see you have enjoyed it too!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love reading your itineries and mostly I love your pics. Vietnam is one great place to travel as I have heard from my friends and your post just validated it!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Gosh sounds like quite a harrowing first day but I hope the rest of your trip was comfortable and wonderful!
    Noor

    ReplyDelete