Fishing boats return from a trip to sea
It's hard not to fall in love with Xuan Dai Bay at first sight.
The spot is known to most Vietnamese, but it's not talked about much. It's difficult to understand why once you've been mesmerized by the natural splendor of the place.
For me, setting foot in the bay was almost transformative. Surrounded by crystal clear water, jagged cliffs and pristine white beach, my worries seemed to evaporate into thin air.
Lying near National Highway 1A, Xuan Dai Bay is 13,000 hectares of raw beauty stretching from Song Cau Town to Tuy An District in the central province of Phu Yen. Its nearly five kilometers of coastline is some of the most photogenic country in Vietnam.
Mountains jut out into the bay then sink into the sea. The rocks facing the water have eroded over time and are now a variety of smooth shapes. "Lovely" doesn't begin to describe this scenery.
In the mountains, the trees and rocks embrace each other, making up what looks like a cool green carpet from a distance. The water is the bay is at once clear, blue, still and quiet.
The bay has also become a thing of legends.
In 1832, a diplomatic delegation from the United States led by Edmund Roberts came to Xuan Dai Bay to present a letter from US president Andrew Jackson to King Minh Mang the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty who ruled from 1820 to 1841. Xuan Dai Bay became the place where the first diplomatic ties were established between Vietnam and the US.
In April, 1945, Japanese naval forces attempted to capture the bay in an effort to establish a base that would allow them to control more Vietnamese territory and launch broader attacks against local freedom fighters, but the Japanese naval force was pushed back by the allied air forces.
It was not until January last year that Xuan Dai Bay was recognized as a National Relic, and plans have been made to promote tourist service development. That means now is the time to go, before the place begins to look like a trash-strewn Disneyland.
Phu Yen and the neighboring provinces will build roads to Xuan Dai and promote the locale as one of the central region's prime tourism attractions.
A fishing family mends their fishing net
While many tourist spots are crowded with all kinds of ugly structures hiding the beautiful scenery, Xuan Dai is still preserved and its villagers still live off the land and sea. But not for long.
Who knows how much longer you'll be able to sit near the lighthouse atop Ganh Den (literally means "light rocks") on Cay Me Mountain and look down upon the pure unobstructed waters of Xuan Dai.
Nearby Binh Sa Beach is beautiful, and is where the wood of casuarina trees produces different sounds in the wind. Here, mountains also jump out into the sea, but the sights, sounds and smells of "tourism development" in which tourism managers will find out just how many people and useless things can be crowded into one beautiful spot will soon be hard to ignore.
At the feet of the mountains by the sea are plenty of beaches and rock formations surrounding Xuan Dai. At the feet of Bo Rock and Mu U Mountain are beaches like Lo Tra, Than, Nhau and Bang.
These are not very large beaches but they are enough for travelers to relax and experience a lifestyle that is close to nature and the sea by visiting the small villages near the bay.
An Thanh Village by the bay is famous for its fish sauce. Its fish sauce is not as famous as fish sauce in Phan Thiet or Phu Quoc, but is very well-known to people in the central region.
Xuan Dai Bay is also near Cu Mong Lagoon, O Loan Lagoon and the Da Dia Rocks. These and other lagoons are some of the best places to sample Phu Yen's famous local seafood.