Nha Trang's peaceful island

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  Men row kayaks on the Cai River near Nha Trang. They are guests at Cat Village, a new riverside tourism spot just outside town, designed to provide travelers with a rural experience.

Hon Thom, which literally means the "fragrant isle" due to its many wild fragrant trees, has emerged as a new destination just outside the famous resort town of Nha Trang, especially for those who really want to escape.

This is not an island that Nha Trang's popular "booze cruise" tours visit.

"This village lets visitors enjoy the quiet and peace of nature, away from noise of the city," Nguyen Hong Phi, a local official, says.

Phi is referring to Cat Village, a new back-to-basics tourism center on the 30-hectare islet. Opened in late July in Xuan Ngoc Village, Vinh Ngoc Commune, it is 1.5 kilometers from Road 45 toward the Cai River.

The islet, which is technically just a riverside area, has attracted many youths who challenge themselves to climb its 300-meter hill. But the new village has more attractions.

Before entering the village, visitors travel five minutes on a speedboat across the Cai River.

The village is almost like a natural green complex seen from afar.

There are huts with thatched roofs in the middle of shadowy orchards around 50 years old, and sailboats at the edge of the village, ready to take visitors for a tour along the river.


A net set up at Cat Village in Nha Trang, in case guests want to try some of the "˜farmer experiences' on offer at the village. Sailboats are also provided by the village.

Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, director of a construction firm and owner of the village, says he always had a dream of building a "real countryside" tourism destination.

The 44-year-old says he has developed 15 hectares of the riverside village after buying the land and orchards from a friend. He invested his own money in the project, but wouldn't say how much.

The tiny island village is very cool because it is shaded by trees and surrounded by water.

And like most villages in southern rural Vietnam, each thatched roof hut has a big jar of water outside, and a coconut shell attached to a long cane for people to wash their face, hands and feet before entering the house.

Each is named after the tree near it so there're the Tamarind Hut, the Mango Hut, and the Longan Hut.

Under the trees are vegetables such as water spinach, broccoli, pennywort, and basil grown without pesticides and similar chemicals.

Guests can pick vegetables for their meals, as well as catch fish in a pond or in the river, by rod or by net. Village staff can also pick the fruit for guests.

The cries of geese calling out to each other, and birds chirping, are other lively parts of the village.

Thanh, who was born and grew up in Nha Trang, says the town has many attractions, but his village is the first destination along the Cai River, although tourists have been taken along the river on boats for years.

The village not only provides a fabricated glimpse of daily rural life, but also various forms of rural entertainment that are rarely found elsewhere in Nha Trang.

People can play fish fighting, cricket fighting, kayaking, sailing with trimarans, windsurfing and various power boating activities. The village has 20 boats of different kinds.

Thanh is completing procedures to provide rock climbing as well.

Customers are allowed to bring their own food and drink. Otherwise, food and other demands need to be bought by the village in advance. Advance notice can be given via phone: (058) 222 1111 or (058) 370 7505.

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