Tens of kilometres near or hundreds of kilometres far, there are perfect getaway islands for Sai Gon’s residents. They are sweet Phu Quoc, romantic Con Dao, peaceful Thanh An, pristine Thieng Lieng and green Long Son. It is chance to refresh your experience whenever you would love to escape from the hustle and bustle Ho Chi Minh City
Phu Quoc – Destination for all seasons
What make Phu Quoc so charming, is that so many luxurious resorts and recreation areas are located here and so even when travelling off-season Phu Quoc always has a lot of visitors.
You will find this to be true when you start your journey of discovery along Phu Quoc’s roads lined with lush trees filled with the salty aroma of the sea. Besides the luxurious seaside resorts, you can enjoy Phu Quoc’s fresh green spaces in bungalows built in the style of small villas surrounded by green trees. Cycling around Phu Quoc is not a good idea as sun is hot and the wind strong, but lounging in the compound of a lush resort is the perfect alternative.
Phu Quoc is not only an island paradise, but also one of food. During the day, you can enjoy your meals in restaurants on Street 30/4, and in the evening, take a walk to Bach Dang Night Market, where you will find the aroma of fish sauce used for raw fish salad with its unforgettable sour, sweet and hot flavours. A dishes of sweet firm steamed shrimp, stir fried mantis shrimp with garlic, grilled oysters with onion and oil sauce or fried sentinel-crab with butter are sure to satisfy your appetite. The way people prepare fish sauce for each dish in different restaurants is very impressive – even the street stalls selling spring rolls and grilled beef wrapped in lolot leaves have their own ways for mixing the sauce.
Although the beaches on Phu Quoc are not as large as those in Danang, they are lined by beautiful blue clear water and include Sao Beach, Ong Lang, Khem Beach and the remote beaches on Mong Tay and May Rut Island looking like a small version of the Maldives. When wandering the whole day through the epic tourism area of Suoi Tranh in the rainy reason you can admire a waterfall looking like a soft ribbon silk, in the dry season you can take a walk on the granite stones in the middle of trees rustling in the sunlight. And make sure to enjoy a laid-back moment for sunset views at Dinh Cậu when the sky is violet coloured. The luggage of visitors returning home is filled with rose myrtle molasses, rose myrtle wine and the black pepper of this beautiful island – all must buy souvenirs.
♦ Weather: Annual average temperature 27-28°C
Dry season: October – March, strong wind.
Rainy season: April – October, strong wind
♦ Getting here:
Plane: HCM City – Phu Quoc, Vietnam Airlines and VietJetAir, duration: 1 hour.
Bus, train: Western Bus Station (HCM City), Ha Tien Bus Station (Rach Gia), duration: 8-9 hours. High-speed train Rach Gia – Phu Quoc (Superdong 2, Superdong 3, Superdong 4 lands at Bai Vong Port and Savana Express ship lands at Ham Ninh Port), duration: 2 hours and a half
Con Dao – from the Island of Steel to the Islands of Flower Blossoms
This archipelago includes 16 small islands and is a mere one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City. The road from the airport to the centre of the island arcs to create a panorama of an incredible scenery the likes of which are mostly seen in blockbuster movies.
Whether you choose to stay in a small inn, a luxurious resort near the beach or a poetic camping area next the rows of casuarinas rustling in the wind by the sea, it is all blissfully peaceful. The spacious white streets contrast with the shade of red bougainvillea, crape myrtles, and bright yellow flowers blooming by the roadsides. Not far from here, An Hai Lake is filled with lotus and water lily blooming in pleasant sunshine from September to December. Wandering along the roads, you will likely encounter a black squirrel appear and then disappear into a lush rows of trees. It is most interesting to make acquaintance with a native tour guide, who will take you trekking through Ong Dung Forest, sailing to a small island to view the sunset, diving in the sea or shopping for some of Con Dao’s specialties. When walking under the high green branches of the old forest, the atmosphere is cool even when it is really hot. The exciting experience of getting to the end of the forest, where the beach is beautifully lined by a pretty pebble bank is worth the trip and if you are lucky, you will find a giant “Tai Tuong” shellfish camouflaged next to the rugged stones.
Not just breathtaking, Con Dao is also a spiritual destination. Across the area you will find relics of the past. It is advised to spend the first morning visiting the relics area to hear the sweet voice of Con Dao girls telling you the sorrow stories of history. Once alone again make the most of the fresh air and incredible beauty of the island that was once known to be hell on earth and has now transformed into a paradise.
Flight: HCM City – Con Dao (direct flight) Vietnam Airlines. Flight duration: 1 hour.
High-speed boat: from HCM City’s Bach Dang harbour the fare is 420,000VND. Travel duration: 4.5 hours.
♦ Weather: Annual average temperature 27°C
- From May to November: rainy season with short showers, small waves, and warm and sunny temperatures
- From December to April: dry season with warm and sunny weather
- From March to September: small waves
- From October to February: large waves on the East
Thanh An Island – A peaceful corner of Saigon
Thanh An Commune in Can Gio District 50 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh’s city centre to the East and only about 8 kilometres from Can Gio. sThanh An is delightfully pristine and peaceful – the perfect way to escape the city noise. About 5,000 people reside here who mainly earn their living through fishing, salt harvesting and forestry.
Thanh An does not have lots of tourism services or luxurious facilities like central Ho Chi Minh City does, however no one regrets coming here thanks to the peaceful scenery, sincere people and most of all the cheap, fresh, delicious food. When the ships return, there is shrimp, mantis shrimp, octopus, fish, sentinel crab and cuttlefish – an abundance of food for you to pick out with joy. You can buy the seafood right there and then have a local chef cook it for you. Besides the seafood, in the market on the island there are many snacks to be tucked into: Hu Tieu (noodle with seasoned and sautéed beef), noodle, banh canh – Vietnamese udon noodle soup, steamed bread, grilled chicken feet, brochette, dried yellow stripe fish, grilled girdle cake with egg and roasted bananas.
Thanh An’s landscape may not be that spectacular but visitors come here for the idyllic life, sincere smiles and enthusiastic spirit of islanders all of which provides gentle and meaningful experiences.
♦ Ideal time to visit: all year round, avoid rainy days, as you will travel by wooden boats.
♦ Getting There:
- Motorbike and coach: drive from Huynh Tan Phat to Binh Khanh ferry, cross the river by ferry then go along Rung Sac street, turn left onto Duyen Hai street at the end of which is Thanh An Port.
- Bus: From Ben Thanh, take bus No. 20, get off at the last station which is Binh Khanh ferry, buy a ticket to cross the river, continue on bus No.75 (the only bus from Saigon to Can Gio, which takes 2-3 hours), get off bus Can Thanh Station and then take a small boat to Thanh An (45 minutes).
Thieng Lieng Island – A salt island of weary but friendly people
Thieng Lieng seems far-flung and separate from Ho Chi Minh City so people are surprised when they learn it is a part of the city. And it takes about 5 hours to get there from the city centre. Despite the hot sunshine and salty atmosphere, the people of the island always welcome strangers with affectionate gazes and the warmest smiles.
The scenery in Thieng Lieng mostly consists of riverbanks and a network of canals along which lush green forests grow. Sailing along these canals, walking by the riverbank or just sitting down and observing the vast blue ocean, you are bound to feel like you have travelled to a remote island and not one so close to Ho Chi Minh City.
In Thieng Lieng, there are no luxurious inns or hotels and you might have to make due with a home stay, sleep in a school, the commune‘s committee offices or even in a local clinic. All of which can be arranged as although Thieng Lieng’s people still live in poverty, they are very generous with visitors. Enjoying a Saturday night with people of the island’s hamlet when everyone gathers, sings “don ca tai tu”, drinks some cups of wine and talks to each other after a hard-working week will make your mind relax and you may just realise the harmony of life.
Thieng Lieng is one of rare areas still keeping traditional methods of salt production, which includes using wooden rollers, waterwheels and wheeling by hand. If you want to visit vast fields of pure white salt, you should come here during sunny season – the time for salt production.
October – March: Dry season (salt making season)
April – September: Rainy season.
♦ Getting There: Make your way from Ho Chi Minh’s city centre to Thanh An Island Commune. The ship from Thanh An to Thieng Lieng departs and returns twice each day (Thanh An – Thieng Lieng: 11am – 4pm and returning: 5am – 2pm), Travelling time is about 45 minutes.
Long Son Island – Green Dragon of Vung Tau
About 100 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City, Long Son is an island commune belonging to Vung Tau City. It is a beautiful eco-tourism destination that has gained attention recently.
The history of settlement on Long Son is more than 100 years old. When the village was first established it was called Nua Village and at the time it was just a desolate land rising out of the vast water without a human footprint. Long Son with its green bamboo forest has been the called “green dragon” of Vung Tau.
Mr. Le Van Muu and other An Giang people settled and built their career on the isolate island. He and others started to deforest, clean up the reeds, mine the mountain, build houses, farm, construct a communal house, establish markets, build schools, and construct five blocks of houses along the street for new residents.
When the boat docks, visitors feel like they have gotten lost on an unknown island, where both the old and the new exist side by side. The centre of the island looks like an ancient town: it is a mega structure with symmetrically balanced design, following feng shui “tien tri hau cham” – there is a lake in front of the town and a mountain behind it. Long Son communal house also called the Ong Tran Temple is an old structure following the architectural style of Vietnamese structures like it. The communal house has many amenities from all three regions of the country: South, Central and North including tables, altars and lacquered board. After leaving the communal house you can visit the floating house in Ben Da area to enjoy the local cuisine. At the floating house, seafood is always processed while fresh.
Discovering the nature of the island is also makes for an interesting experience for tourists. Long Son Island has a diverse ecosystem Many tourists like to go climbing when visiting Long Son. The mountain are laced with trails, that visitors must navigate themselves to get through the forest and reach the mountain peak – a fascinating, natural masterpiece.
The peak’s width is 2 kilometres and there are countless stone pillars that reach up into the sky and stones with curious shapes. The mountain has three peaks: Ba Trao Peak (138 metres high), Ho Rong Peak (120 metres high) and Ho Vong Peak (100 metres high). From the peaks, tourists have a view of the vast ocean and Vung Tau City. At the mountain’s base is Sac Forest comprised of mangrove land with an abundance of sea creatures.
Rainy season: May – October.
Dry season: November – April.
♦ Getiting there:
Leave the city, and drive along the national highway no.51 or go through Thu Khiem tunnel heading to Cai Lai, cross the river with the Cat Lai Ferry and follow the signs to Ba Ria Commune. Long Son is about 35 kilometres from Ba Ria Commune.
Van Ly | Wanderlust Tips | Cinet