Banh Sua is too small to have big beaches like other tourist islands in northern Vietnam and is not popular enough to have cacophonic resorts.
It is that perfect island where you can have all the peace and time you want to discover true coastal life with the help of friendly locals.
The island is in Bai Tu Long Bay off Quang Ninh Province and was not explored until 2004, when a man named Do Huu To came to set up fishing farms, giving the island another name – Mr To.
Tourists have recently started visiting.
It takes only a day to explore all the great things on the island, which is less than one square kilometer.
A man walks on a floating bridge on to Banh Sua. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
The day here starts as early as 5 a.m., when you can join locals to catch sea cucumbers around big rocks on the island. Some are big as an adult’s arm.
They you can have someone sail you to Quan cave, which is around half an hour by boat from the island. It was a military base during the Vietnam War, but draws tourists with its stalactites. The limestone deposits are of all shapes and sizes and some say they are as beautiful as those in nearby Ha Long.
Inside Quan Cave. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
When the sun comes up, it is time to visit fishers’ boats around the bay as they pull up fishing nets full of fresh fish, squid, and spider crabs. The nets are cast early in the morning.
A tourist picks up a fresh catch set in a net cast by local fishers from early in the morning. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Buy anything you like and you can bring them back to Banh Sua and ask some local to cook them for you.
You will have a fresh lunch at a very cheap price.
There are oyster farms along the beach and the farmers will let you join in catching them while having a swim in the afternoon.
Some tourists have the sea all to themselves. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
There’s a rocky mountain without a name on the island, and it is the spot to capture the most beautiful sunset on Bai Tu Long.
You can climb up there in 15 minutes and reward yourself with a panorama of the blue sea touching golden stretches of light before the sun goes down the mountain.
Sunset seen from the island. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Le Dinh Nam, a tourist from nearby Phu Tho Province and a keen amateur photographer, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper the sunset on the bay is one of the best he has ever seen as it captures a vast bay with many islands.
“It’s really mighty.”
HOW TO GET THERE?
The island is even tinier during high tides. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
You can take a bus from My Dinh terminal in Hanoi and travel around 220 kilometers to Cam Pha town in Quang Ninh. Then take a public bus or a taxi or a xe om (motorbike taxi) to Cai Rong Port.
From the port, take a boat bound for Ngoc Vung Island and ask the boatman to drop you on Banh Sua.