Our original plan had been a three day - two night cruise on Halong Bay. We had delayed booking to be sure we had decent weather. By the time we were ready, the cruises were sold out. A blessing in disguise. We met a Danish family at breakfast on our first morning and they had just returned from a similar cruise. If they could do it again, they would go to Cat Ba Island instead and just do a day trip on Lan Ha Bay. The cost is much less, the scenery is said to be equivalent and you avoid the extremely busy, touristy Ha Long Bay area. We quickly adapted plan B.
The transfer from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island was about 5 hours. Bus - Ferry - Bus. I and several other bus passengers were surprised to see the somewhat sketchy ferry pier in Hai Phong. The pier was in close proximity to the container terminal. Everywhere you looked, there was construction. Dust, cranes, trucks and industrial equipment abound. The gravel road was bumpy and challenging for bus travel. The old well worn speedboat type ferry carried about 50 people. Once on the other side, it was evident we were in for a quieter experience far away from the city.
We settled on a simple two day itinerary. Day one: Boat trip on La Han Bay. Day two: Scooter trip around the island. Captions below the images with more detail. We have another post with monochrome images coming up.