Part 9: Halong Bay and Cat Ba | A Photographer’s Travel Itinerary for Backpacking in Cambodia & Vietnam

This is it. The final episode of our blog series with successful photographer Sian Owen. We’ve saved the best for last, we can’t think of a more majestic place to end this exciting journey Sian’ taken us through than Halong Bay and Cat Ba. If you’ve been to Vietnam, you’ll know this is what many consider the highlight of this extraordinary country. With her photos, Sian’s able to capture the beauty and vastness of this pristine place in its most natural state.

Vietnam is one of the major travel destinations in Southeast Asia. It’s no wonder teaching English in Vietnam has become very popular too. If you on the fence about going to Vietnam, Sian’s photos will have you booking the next available flights to this stunning part of the world.

A backpacking route through Cambodia and Vietnam

Sian’s backpacking route through Southeast Asia.

Halong bay

Halong bay in Full, Vietnam.

This majestic place that is Ha Long Bay, showing off all its beauty.

As mentioned in Part 7, Sian used Hanoi as a base. She traveled from Hanoi to Halong Bay using a minivan which cost her $12 and took approximately 3 hours.

Walking in Halong Bay - Sian Owen

One of the most scenic views on earth.


Happy Halong Hostel

“All the hostels are in an area called Bai Chay, I personally wouldn’t even recommend staying in Halong City. Rather get a minivan from Hanoi at 8am to the harbor and get straight onto a boat cruise. Al the boats seem to board at 1pm.”


Hike up Bai Tho Mountain

Top of bai Tho Mountain, Vietnam.

Unbelievable views from the top of Bai Tho.

“The only reason I would recommend staying in Halong is to squeeze in a hike up Bai Tho. The view from the top is unreal. It is a very sneaky entrance to the start of the trail though.”

Bai Tho Mountain, Vietnam.

This place can make anyone feel like a king.

Royal Palace Boat Cruise

“Start saving now if you wanna do a boat cruise in Halong Bay, they are not cheap. You can find them all over, there are actually 1000s. It cost us $215 for two nights on the Royal Palace Boat Cruise. The fortunate thing is that it included all the food and activities.”

Royal Palace Boat Cruise, Vietnam.

An awesome place to rest after a day of activities.


Activities on the Royal Palace Boat, Vietnam.

Daring to dream.

“You can’t go to Halong Bay and not do a boat trip, it’s an absolute must! I obviously can’t speak for all the boats, but ours was honestly perfect, the food, the crew, and the rooms were just immaculate.”

Food on the Royal palace Boat, Vietnam.

Just one of many delicious goods on the cruise.


On the Royal Palace Boat deck, Vietnam.

Admiring these serene surroundings.

Cat Ba

Riding motorbike in Cat Ba, Vietnam.

No better on getting around this island.

“A local ferry from Halong Bay to Cat Ba cost 700 000 VND (±$30) and took close to an hour. From there we took a bus to the Cat Ba town which was 25 000 VND. (±$1)”

Hiking in Cat ba, Vietnam.

These views are worth every step of the hike.

“This place is very popular for it’s scenic mountains, so I would highly recommend renting a motorbike and taking a drive around the island, they’ve got fantastic windy roads which lead to some stunning views.”

Cat ba beach, Vietnam

Calm and relaxing beach.


Cat Co beach, Vietnam.

Absolutely breathtaking sunbathing spot.

“The town itself wont take your breath away, but the accommodation is super cheap, so we stayed there and just explored the island by ourselves during the day. Great places to check out are Cat Co beaches 1, 2 and 3. They’re such beautiful, relaxing and undisturbed beaches.”

Sian Owen is a South African Business Science graduate and photographer. She specializes in wedding and lifestyle photography. This series of bog posts follows her recent trip through Cambodia and Vietnam, showcasing the incredible beauty of these two fascinating countries.

To see more of Sian’s amazing photography, here are her contact details:


Instagram: @sianowenphotography@sian_owen
Phone: +27 79 981 0981

Interested in Teaching English, volunteering or interning abroad? We’ll send you more info!





About Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko is TravelBud's marketing intern and is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Digital Marketing. Read more about him and other TravelBud authors.

He handles TravelBud's social media, blog writing and general content creation. Check out the inspiring stories he's created on the TravelBud Instagram page, featuring TravelBud alumni and their incredible experiences teaching and volunteering abroad.

He's done a fair bit of travel in his life, having explored Thailand, the UK, Italy, France and Germany.

His favorite place so far? That would be Rome, Italy but coming in a close second, thanks to a few memorable nights out, would be Phuket, Thailand.

Filed under  Travel • Vietnam 

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