A small port town shaped as a "T": the main road along Van Don island, and the road to the port.
Buses frequently depart to and from Baichay Bus Station in Halong City from the 'T'-intersection at the center of town. Inbound, you can also get local buses from near the market in Cửa Ông, the nearby mainland town at the intersection of the road to Cái Rồng and the rest of [Van Don island.
A bus hangs around the market and the main road leaving to Hai Phong around 09:30, via Ha Long. Fare from 70,000 ₫ong to 80,000 ₫ong to Hai Phong (listed sometimes as Lac Long).
- 1 Van Don International airport (VDO IATA). has flights from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) with Vietnam Airlines, VietJet and Bamboo Airways. The flight takes about two hours. Flights from Taipei and Shenzen are anticipated to begin in June 2019. Opened on December 30, 2018, this is one of Vietnam's newest airports and VietJet was offering very low cost flights in early 2019. The airport is about 60 km from the port city of Ha Long. A clean, new and free bus is available from the airport to Ha Long or you may negotiate with a taxi company for a fare of 800,000 dong). Allow an hour by taxi and longer by bus.
The town is walkable.
There's a climbable mountain near the port with some pagodas.
Either hang around the port and watch the local fisherpeople do their thing, or get a boat and see some of the fantastic ocean karst topography of the Halong Bay region; smug in the knowledge that you are avoiding the five-hour-long tourist hard-sell that production lines of clueless tourists are going through just an hour away to the southwest!
The most popular destination is Quan Lạn island.
There are two types of ferries available: long passenger speedboats with near-exclusively internal seating, and slower ferries that carry both small amounts of cargo and supplies along with passengers and have roof and outdoor areas. The slower ferries are not necessarily much cheaper, but are far more interesting if you have the time and the weather is bearable.
The basic route is around the top of Ban Sen island, south along Cao Lo island to Quan Lạn island. The main port of Quan Lạn is at the northernmost tip of the island, and is also the first one you reach (an hour by fast boat, around two and a half by slow boat). A second port of some small-scale industrial purpose lies about half-way down the island on the western side, though the ferry may first visit some minor points of habitation (no roads, shops, hotels, etc. at any of them) on the opposite Ban Sen island before kicking you off here. Count on two and a half hours if you get off here.
Ferries from Cai Rong to the north tip of Quan Lanh:
- Slow ferry departs 07:00 (06:30 in summer - reported elsewhere and probable but not verified) - 60,000 ₫ong
- Slow ferry departs 13:00 (Oct 2013) - 60,000 ₫ong
- High speed passenger ferry departs 08:00
- High speed passenger ferry departs 14:00 (Feb 2012)
Ferries from the north tip of Quan Lanh to Cai Rong:
- High speed passenger ferry departs 07:00 (Feb 2012)
- High speed passenger ferry departs 14:00 (not verified; anyway there should be an afternoon one)
- Slow ferry leaving around 07:00 - 60,000 ₫ong
- Slow ferry departs 13:99 (Oct 2013) - 60,000 ₫ong
There's a market near the middle of town, though it's much smaller than that in nearby Cửa Ông.
Eat and drink
A few eateries exist through the town and near the port. Standard Vietnamese fare.
A decent range of hotels exist near the port, including one very modern hotel that will be immediately apparent. Smaller hotels are around 200,000 ₫ong per day, if you want to spend a half day (e.g., 5 hours waiting for a boat) then you might be able to convince them to give you a discount.
- Zebra-striped Cafe, Near the 'T' intersection (Hard to spot. It's on the main road, not the road to the port.). Possibly the only place in town with wifi, so if you're headed to the islands without a mobile phone then this is the last place you're going to get online for awhile. Cheap..