Cat Ba, Vietnam: Our Deal of the Century

A cost breakdown of what floats this budget-obsessed-traveling-family’s boat, and why we docked on Cat Ba Island in northern Vietnam.

Every traveling family has a different idea of what makes a deal of the century for them. When we hit one, we get really excited and we cash in! We cancel the upcoming “plans” and we stay put for a while – because we can – and because reducing cost and stress is always a gain on the road. Cat Ba Island was not the cheapest, not the most beautiful, nor the most culturally interesting place we’ve been, but it had just the right amounts of this and that, to make it THE deal we were psyched to discover.


Cat Ba National Park

IMG_3422It’s all about that moment, when we walk into the spacious family room with four big beds and a huge window on the top floor of a family-run hotel overlooking the bay…when we breathe in and only faintly detect must, smoke, or residual bathroom odors…when we sit on the beds and don’t feel springs poking us,”The bed isn’t lumpy, mom, it’s just hard!  It’s just hard!!, that’s when we know we’re onto something good.  When we inquire about the price of the palatial, sun-drenched room, and find out that breakfast for all of us is included and that there’s an extra room with computers and tables for our use, then we know we’re onto something great. When we hit the non-touristy beach with breathtaking views of karsts, ride the waves and people-watch the friendly locals, we know WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE SOON.

freedom is when a 2 day reservation morphs into a 2 week stay.  we travel with as few commitments as possible.

IMG_3462Cat Ba ticked all our boxes: 
1. cheap   
2. friendly  
3. not too touristy (backpackers but they don't count)
4. opportunity to interact with local children  
5. clean, big hotel room with enough beds   
6. proximity to the beach and the mountains  
7. easy and cheap transport on the island
IMG_3429Cat Ba's Cost Breakdown:
Hotel including 5 breakfasts - $22/day (low season price)
Motorbike - $4/day
Do-it-ourselves lunch - $6 (baguettes, cheese, fruit)
Average dinner out - $15
Totaling less than $50/day!
Extra: Pricey-but-totally-worth-it outdoor adventure tours - 
$30/person kayaking,$70/person rock climbing (Maddie's inspiring 
rock climbing post)
DSC03624Free or damn close to it:
The Beach!  
Playing with Vietnamese children.
Hiking in Cat Ba National Park.
Watching the hotel owner make tapestries.
Making forts in the large hotel room.
Playing soccer on the street.


It started out as a fort, and then turned into a movie set.


Just us and the locals is just how we like it.

Taking the opportunity to create a little familiarity and regularity when our environment changes so frequently while we travel  is important for all of us.  Going back to the same places to eat and hang out, sleeping in the same bed for more than a few nights, allows us to focus our energy on things other than charting a whole new course each day.  It allows us to relax, play, and explore, uhh…which is why we embarked on this trip in the first place!  Of course, after 2 weeks, we were all itching to move on, in search of the next deal of a century.

So if you make it to Cat Ba check out: 
Duc Tuan Hotel The best budget family room we've seen in SE Asia.
Buddha Belly Vegetarian Restaurant We aren't vegetarians, but we do love delicious, fresh food. 
Asia Outdoors Splurge to rock climb and kayak. Guides were incredible with kids. Lunch was included.

Where have you found your deal of the century?

Thanks for following Far Away Five!

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