Câm Pha is a port and industry-driven city in the Northeast Region of Vietnam. The city is a part of the Quang Ninh Province, which is also home to Vietnam’s famous Ha Long Bay. Câm Pha is located just an hour north of Ha Long. Focusing heavily on coal production, Câm Pha also relies on the quarries, agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries.
Though most of the city is industrial, there are a handful of natural and historical sites just outside of the city that has become tourist destinations. With several accommodation options, visitors can stay in Câm Pha before taking day trips outside of the city to explore its wild side.
Industrial City in Northeast Vietnam
As a coastal city with access to mountains and the ocean, Câm Pha has had large success exploiting the local land for profit. With the ability to not only produce but also ship, the city has become an extremely busy port in Nothern Vietnam. For quite a few years, Câm Pha was considered to have the biggest coal mine in Southeast Asia.
The mine, which has been in operation for more than 100 years, still exists as the city’s main industry today. As mentioned, Câm Pha is not far away from Ha Long, which is the number one tourist destination in Vietnam. Tourists who are staying in Ha Long and want to see more of Vietnam’s northern coastal area can easily travel the 39 km (24 mi) to Câm Pha on a day trip excursion.
Many visitors to Câm Pha also travel from the country’s capital, Hanoi, which is about 191 km (119 mi) away. Private cars, taxis, and trains are all options for travelers leaving Hanoi and heading to Câm Pha. The journey can take anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on how you choose to travel.
For more than a century, Câm Pha has been exploited for its natural resources. Coal was the first resource to be mined and exported from the area. After that, locals began to rely on other sources as well. As a city with multiple sources of income, Câm Pha employs many people from the surrounding area. To this day, the city and its port are still economic strongholds.
In the past, Câm Pha’s resources and location made it a target during the war. Held by North Vietnam forces, the city was attacked by the US military in 1967. Squadrons from the US Navy Oriskany, Constellation, Coral Sea, and Intrepid were all sent to attack the ports of Câm Pha and Hon Gai in hopes of weakening Northern forces. Under the bombings, the city suffered damages.
However, in January 1968, the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam drew attention away from Câm Pha and the attack ceased. After the war, the city rebuilt, continuing to produce and export goods both domestically and internationally. The city’s various industries helped it recover quickly and expand to become a bustling port.
Though small, Câm Pha is still one of Vietnam’s largest producers of coal and cement. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 4 million tons of coal are exported through the Câm Pha’s port every year, the majority of which is sent overseas, while just 0.5% is sent to cities in Vietnam.
- In 2012, Câm Pha was upgraded from being a district to a Class-2 city in Vietnam.
- About 203,435 people live in Câm Pha as of 2015.
- The port in Câm Pha has an average daily loading rate of 6,000 tons.
Since the majority of Câm Pha is dedicated to the port and various industries, most of the attractions are outside of the city center. Not far away, tourists can explore some of the best natural and historical sites in Vietnam. Popular destinations include Ha Long Bay, the Cua Ông Temple, Rêu Island, the Vung Duc Historical Site, and Vàng Island.
Ha Long Bay
Vietnam’s number one tourist site, Ha Long Bay, is just an hour from Câm Pha. Described as the most beautiful spot in Vietnam, tourists can easily travel to Ha Long City from Câm Pha. The drive takes less than an hour and from there, tours of the bay can be arranged.
About 13 km (8 mi) from Câm Pha is Vàng Island in the Bai Tu Long Bay. An eco-tourist destination, the island is being built up to become a resort community. For now, Vàng Island is home to a mostly undisturbed landscape of amazing beaches, unique formations, and dramatic karst cliffs. Small resorts do exist so that visitors can stay the night.
Cua Ông Temple
One attraction that is located in Câm Pha City is the Cua Ông Temple. A place of worship for the family members of the General Tran Quoc Tuan, the temple has a series of statues and ancient architecture to impress its guests. Now, the temple is open daily to visitors who want to learn more about Câm Pha City’s religion and culture.
Vung Duc Historical Site
At the Vung Duc Historical Site, guests are treated not only to relics from the past but also to an impressive cave system. Underneath the Ban Co Mountain, the site has become famous for its stalactite formations. Sometimes called the “Fairy Land”, visitors should take a boat to Bai Tu Long Bay to reach the site and cave.
Also known as Monkey Island, Rêu Island is home to more than 1000 monkeys — hence, the name. A part of the Cat Ba Islands, Rêu is just 1 km (0.6 mi) away from the port in Câm Pha. Visitors will have to take a boat to the island, but once there, they can lounge on the beach or hike in the jungle. For overnight adventures, there is one resort in operation on Monkey Island.
With so much of the city dedicated to the local industries, tourism in Câm Pha is still a small-scale event. There aren’t too many places in Câm Pha to stay, but the few that do exist have been well-rated amongst previous guests. The only resort in Câm Pha is on Rêu Island out in the bay. In town, the best accommodations are the Hai Yen Luxury Hotel, Quang Vinh Hotel, and the Gia Bao Hostel.
Hai Yen Luxury Hotel – In Câm Pha, the Hai Yen Luxury Hotel has received the highest ratings from previous guests. The hotel was designed to cater to business or leisure travelers. Room options include classic, deluxe, royal, and suite accommodations.
Guests have access to a spa, three restaurants, a car park, and free Wi-Fi. The front desk can arrange for attraction tickets, tours, and airport transfers.
Monkey Island Resort – Situated on the best beach on Monkey Island, the resort has several bungalows and a mini lodge. Visitors can book a room that has either a sea or garden view. Rates for an entire bungalow can be high, but prices tend to be more reasonable for the individual rooms.
At the resort, guests are provided with access to a private beach, bar, restaurant, garden, billiards, table tennis, and indoor pool. There is an on-site restaurant to provide guests with meals throughout the day. Transportation is provided by the hotel and guests should book early as the resort quickly fills up during the peak tourist season.
Quang Vinh Hotel – Located in the Cam Bình Ward, the Quang Vinh Hotel is an affordable option for budget travelers. On the hotel grounds, guests can access free Wi-Fi, a garden, a bar, and a car park. Rooms at the hotel can be deluxe double, twin, or triple and have an attached private bathroom. A restaurant is on-site as well as a 24-hour front desk.
Gia Bao Hostel – For bargain prices, budget travelers should head to the Gia Bao Hostel. Rooms can be booked as single, double, triple, and even family. Guests are provided with shared areas like a kitchen, lounge, and outside terrace where they can mingle with other travelers. The 24-hour desk can help guests order room service or complete a currency exchange.
Câm Pha may not have an abundance of restaurants, however, the few it does have are known for its fresh ingredients and tasty flavors. Serving local dishes, especially ones that use seafood, the restaurants in Câm Pha do a good job of keeping travelers happy. Some of the best places to eat are Quán Phô Biên, Nhà Hàng Bích Thuy, and the Xuan Thuy Quan Restaurant.
Nhà Hàng Bích Thuy – A more upscale restaurant, Nhà Hàng Bích Thuy serves a mix of traditional Vietnamese dishes. The full menu includes appetizers and desserts as well a numerous options for the main course. Dishes that are especially popular at the restaurant tend to be anything that features noodles or seafood.
Quán Phô Biên – One local seafood restaurant is called Quán Phô Biên. The restaurant serves a variety of dishes that often use seafood, rice, and noodles as the main ingredients. Well-known amongst the locals, its reputation is growing amongst the international crowds. Featuring a quiet atmosphere, guests can sit on the balcony looking out over the streets of Câm Pha.
Xuan Thuy Quan – Serving Vietnamese dishes like Giò Bò and Thâp Cam, Xuan Thuy Quan Restaurant is affordable, delicious, and frequented by locals. While the menu is limited, foreigners should make an effort to dine here. The friendly staff is more than happy to assist in any way and they always ensure that they serve good food.
Each year during the early days of the 2nd lunar month, the Cua Ông Temple Festival is held to ask for happiness and peace during the New Year. The festival begins with a patrol of the General before a dancing dragon team kicks off the incense ceremony. Once the festival has been opened, people play games, sing, and dance.
The festival is most popular amongst the locals, although it is being expanded each year in hopes of attracting more visitors.
As a coastal city, travelers in Câm Pha will be able to get around by walking, taking taxis, or hiring a boat. Most of the tourist attractions in Câm Pha are within walking distance of each other. However, sometimes travelers don’t want to have to take the time and energy to walk everywhere. This is when taxis come in handy
Taxis in Câm Pha have affordable rates and are safe to use. Tourists can ask their accommodation to call a cab or seek one out on the street. For most places In Câm Pha, a taxi is a great way to get around. For some destinations in Câm Pha, visitors will have to hop on board a boat. Boats can be hired at the port and they frequently take visitors on tours of the coast or out into the bay.
As a northern destination, the weather in Câm Pha isn’t quite the same as the weather in South Vietnam. Temperatures in the winter can truly drop and rain can make taking tours a miserable experience. Travelers who want the best weather for their trip should plan to visit Câm Pha during the dry season. The dry season starts in mid-November and ends in early April.
For many travelers, the worst time to visit Câm Pha would be during the wet season, which begins in May and lasts until November. During these months the temperatures and humidity can be unbearably high. Visitors will also have to contend with frequent rain showers.
Even though Câm Pha is a small and nondescript destination, visitors will be able to find plenty to do and keep themselves occupied on their trip. From the industrial shores of the city to the picturesque Islands in the bay, Câm Pha is an overlooked destination that more travelers should consider exploring.
Plus, with the city being so close to Ha Long, it’s easy for travelers to be able to explore more parts of the area as they hop between Câm Pha and destinations in the bay.
Activities near Cam Pha