If you’re passing through the Mekong Delta, make a detour and head for the archipelagos off the Ha Tien coast, about 350 km from Ho Chi Minh City. Less known than Phu Quoc (South Vietnam’s largest island), the archipelagos of Hai Tac, Ba Lua and Nam Du have retained their wilderness charm. Should hotels be unavailable it is easy to find accommodation in private homes – a rustic formula for those addicted to authenticity.
The coastline is one hour away by boat – you can smell it in the fragrant sea air.
Crabs, sand, swaying coconut trees: This spot is idyllic, perfect to relax and insulate oneself from the sometimes oppressive din of the big city. Upon arrival, children’s stares suggest that only a few Western tourists come to this place.
Located in the province of Kien Giang, the Hai TacArchipelago – or archipelago of pirates – includes 16 islands whose largest is Doc Hon. It is located 27.5 km from the coast of Ha Tien and 40 km from Phu Quoc island.
At the end of the 17th century, the rugged archipelago was a base for pirates who attacked the larger Chinese and European commercial boats. The Hai Tac Archipelago was indeed the perfect location to hide and attack ships, with its advantageous position along the broad outlines of maritime trade in the region. Of course, today the pirates are long gone, and the lone residents are local fishermen and military personnel.
I must say that, in this region, the memory of bloody raids perpetrated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge is still fresh. Far away on the surrounding hills, you can see a few barracks, an indication that the border with neighbouring Cambodia is very close.
The quiet atmosphere is relaxing, though we can imagine that beneath regular rolling waves crashing on the rocks, terrible storms can occur. Today, however, the sea is stretching to the horizon and the sun is shining in a dim and pleasant purple light. The water is clean, warm and transparent. On the rocks, it’s easy to catch snails, oysters, crabs and clams.
Some people might complain that there are no tourist services, but this is another reason to enjoy this place. For sleeping, it’s possible to stay at fishermen’s houses. Indeed, many locals offer lodging for a reasonable price. Alternatively, you can come equipped with your own hammocks, tents and flashlights.
Hon Dau by: phuquocsensettravel
Other islands to visit include those of Ba Lua, a collection of 45 large and small islands in the territorial waters of Kien Luong District, also off the coast of Ha Tien.
According to local belief, Ba Lua was the name of a beautiful Sino-Vietnamese woman who once lived in Ha Tien and whose Western husband succumbed to her charm and agreed to buy her this heavenly place.
Dotted with numerous caves, Ba Lua is home to 2300 people spread over 10 islands. The vast majority of islands, with peaks at nearly 100 meters high, are uninhabited.
Ba Lua is rung by shallow waters and rarely encounters strong winds. The archipelago is quite suitable for tourists who enjoy nautical travel on small boats. Fishing vessels are actually the only possible means of transportation to visit the surrounding area.
Tien Cave is a must-see, a masterpiece of nature. Winding between towering walls carved by erosion, this 150-metre-long cave leads to a nice sandy beach.
Finally, if you have the time (and energy), you can visit Nam DuArchipelago, more distant, located 90 km west of Rach Gia City.
Photo by: Doigiay
Accessible by boat, the Nam Du Archipelago is a little corner of paradise. It includes 21 islands that feature beautiful, sandy beaches.
The largest island, Cu Tron, measures 9 km2 and the smallest, Hon Lo, is only 200 m2!
Wild and relatively unknown, Nam Du is a place where few tours are organized, and as such it will delight adventurous travellers.
Nam Du by dulichluhanh
You can buy a bus ticket at Mien Tay bus station in Saigon (395 Kinh Duong Vuong Street, Tan Binh District) to go to Ha Tien or Rach Gia.
At Ha Tien, tourists can take a boat to go to Hai Tac. The journey, which lasts an hour, costs about VND40,000 per person.
The boat leaves Ha Tien at 09:30 and returns at 15:00 daily. It’s also possible to go to Hai Tac from Rach Gia by hydrofoil. A single ticket costs about VND70,000 per person and takes between 40 and 60 minutes.
The journey from Ba Lua Archipelago to Ha Tien also takes about an hour. I went there by fishing boat with a group of 10 people. We paid VND120,000 each.
Nam Du Archipelago is a 3-hour trip from the harbour at Rach Gia. The price is about VND270,000 per person.