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Forest Bathing in Cat Ba National Park

Forest Bathing in Cat Ba National Park

My friend Quyen and I have been partners for a long time. Instead of the usual day trip, biking, and lunch, we decided to embrace slow tourism by staying in Viet Hai Ancient Village.

Quyen operates a restaurant and bike rental business, and tourism has transformed the lives of the 80 households here, shifting from rice cultivation to service-based activities.

Viet Hai originated from Tay Lai Chinese settlers, followed by Vietnamese who cultivated the land, creating a community that thrived by the sea and lived in the mountains. The village is surrounded by karst mountains and accessed through a naturally eroded gateway. In 1970, about 15 households from Vinh Bao moved here, and now there are about 80 families in total.

Viet Hai is accessible from both Hong Bay and Cat Ba, making it a popular destination for travelers. Quyen and his wife Tuyen successfully run their business, catering to tourists from Heritage Binh Chuan and offering day trips to Viet Hai.

I chose to stay at Lan Homestay near Quyen’s restaurant, which offers rustic but comfortable accommodations and a lush garden—a quiet place to spend the night.

Eager for adventure, I expressed my desire to trek from Viet Hai to the headquarters of Cat Ba National Park and explore Tien Duc Cave. Quyen, having not ventured into the forest for nearly a decade, joined me to refresh his connection with nature. We estimated the expedition would take about 3.5 hours.

We started our trek at 8 AM after breakfast, equipped with comfortable sports shoes, insect repellent, water, and some bananas. The 9 km trail is the longest through Cat Ba National Park, starting at the village’s edge.

The entrance ticket cost 80,000 VND per person. We accessed the largest park on Vietnam’s second-largest island after Phu Quoc. Brief information about the park is available on a banner at the entrance.

Our walk through the park was tranquil, and we visited the historic Tien Duc Cave. We plan to recommend this day trip to our guests so they can experience forest bathing and learn how the Viet Hai people used the cave in 1966 to evade US bombings. The trek to the water reservoir below is an interesting 30-minute walk.

Quyen explained that during the war, the cave could accommodate the entire village with makeshift facilities like kitchens, tables, and beds. Writings on the cave walls confirm his stories.

This journey is not only for cruise-based travelers but also for those staying in central Cat Ba town who seek an active adventure to discover, explore, and enjoy the local culture and rainforest. It’s an enriching experience that allows visitors to celebrate and respect the natural beauty and heritage of the area.

Dr. Pham Ha is the Chairman and CEO of LuxGroup (, a conglomerate of prestigious companies and a leading expert in the luxury tourism industry. Besides his business activities, he is also passionate about collecting paintings, antiques, writing about branding, economics, business management, and books on cultural heritage, history, and art.

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