Think beaches in Vietnam, and chances are Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, or Da Nang will spring to mind. Not many people in fact know that down south, in Kien Giang Province, are some remote beautiful beaches.
Kien Hai District, some 30 kilometers from the province’s capital Rach Gia, has 23 islands with beaches that are famous locally – like Nha (house), Chen (bowl), Bang, and Bac.
Chen Beach in Hon Tre Island, the district’s capital, is the most famous.
Only over 100 meters of its two-kilometer length is sandy. The rest is covered with rocks that look uncannily like overturned bowls when the tide is high. One can go hundreds of meters into the sea without getting the feet wet by walking on the rocks.
With a small rented boat and a fishing rod, tourists can start a leisurely day of fishing 300 meters from shore. Another recommended activity is buying seafood directly from fishermen, usually for cheap, having them cooked, and enjoying them right on the beach.
Not far from Chen is Dong Dua (coconut cavern), which is actually a little bay covered by coconut trees and rocks.
While the island is usually compared to a floating turtle, its “tail” is Duoi Ha Ba Beach, whose name, translated literally, means “sea god’s tail.” The beach, also known as Dua (pineapple), gets narrower and narrower until it disappears under water.
It is full of rocks, some high enough for climbing. It is also a favorite fishing location for locals since its fish stocks are said to be plentiful because of submerged caves. People often catch groupers weighing a couple of kilograms here.
HOW TO GET THERE
Rach Gia Town is around 250 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors can go there by bus, which takes some six and a half hours, or by flight.
Since the island is not big – it is just 15 kilometers long – tourists should rent a motorbike to do a tour of it, stopping to take photos or just see the beautiful landscapes.
Hon Tre can be reached by hydrofoil from Rach Gia. The trip, which costs VND65,000 (US$3.11) per person, takes 45-60 minutes.
After visiting Hon Tre, one should take a boat to nearby Hon Son Island, which has five sandy beaches.
The kilometer-long white sandy Bang Beach is the most beautiful in Hon Son. It is deserted, the water is crystal clear, and the beach is lined with coconut trees.
A stream named Tien (fairy) runs into the beach from the top of Ma Thien Lanh, the highest of seven mountains on the island.
The 450-meter mountain itself is an attraction. It has thousands of steps leading to the top starting at Nha Beach.
On the way is a Buddha statue named Phat Lo Thien (outdoor Buddha). The statue is said to weigh around 100 kilograms and was installed by locals in 1974. Some 400 meters away is Pho Tinh Pagoda.
The top of Ma Thien Lanh is called San Tien (fairy yard), where there is a giant flat rock some 100 meters long and 50 meters wide. Legend has it that the place is visited by fairies, and is a popular destination for Buddhists.
Other famous beaches on Hon Son include Bac and Thien Tue (1,000 years), which has a temple which houses two whale jaws measuring more than two meters each. Like fishermen in many other places in Vietnam, locals worship the giant creature, venerating it as a god.