Island collection off the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang adds value to its attractions by virtue of being on the road less travelled
Men, one of the most beautiful beaches on the Nam Du Islands, the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang /PHOTO: QUYNH NHU
Nam Du is not a name that figures on many tourism itineraries, but this fact only makes its 21 islands and their beaches well worth a three-hour high-speed boat trip from Rach Gia Town, which is around 65 sea miles away.
One of Nam Du's most beautiful beaches, Men in Lon (big) Island, is an ideal getaway from a busy and stressful daily life. Located in a quiet bay with white sand and rows of coconut trees, it is a great place to do nothing but relax and enjoy nature's gifts.
Mau Island to the southeast of Nam Du, is home to the Chuong Beach with white sands and pure blue waters; the Nam (south) Beach, where winds and waves are calm throughout the year; and the Da Den (black stone) Beach, where rocks of different hues and shapes add a splash of color to the surroundings.
At sunrise or sunset, Nam Du's lighthouse on Lon Island is an awesome place to be. Located more than 300 meters above the sea level, it is the highest point for miles around, and apart from stunning sunrises and sunsets, the bird's-eye view of Nam Du is a visual treat not to be missed.
About mid-way to the lighthouse, nature and photography lovers are rewarded with another spectacular view the giant bow shaped Ngu Beach.
The best way to travel around Nam Du is to take a xe ôm (motorbike taxi) which is common there, or hire a motorbike for VND150,000-200,000 (US$7.1-9.5) a day. Given the area's underdeveloped infrastructure, some routes, like the one to Men Beach, can turn out to be a tiring expedition on a motorbike.
But, to travel from an island to another, there is no choice other than to strike a deal with locals.
Only about half of the islands are populated. Lon Island has the largest population with nearly 5,000 people, while those like Nom, Dau and Dung islands have populations of just several dozen people each.
Since most people in Nam Du earn a living fishing and/or practicing aquaculture, reasonably priced seafood (compared to more popular destinations) can be counted as one of its attractions.
For breakfast, there is an array of restaurants that sell bún riêu (rice vermicelli with shrimp crab and tomato soup), cơm sườn (broken rice with grilled pork), and bún chả cá (rice vermicelli with soup and fish paste) around the high-speed boat station on Lon Island.
One can get from Ho Chi Minh City to Rach Gia Town by air (Vietnam Airlines operates daily flights that are priced between VND1,260,000 2,690,000 for a round trip, and have duration of half an hour); or by road (bus fare: VND150,000/one way trip).
From Rach Gia Town to the Nam Du Islands, high-speed boats are operated by the Ngoc Thanh Company for VND210,000 for a one-way trip. There is only one trip to and fro each day.
While young people often camp on beaches like Hai Bo Dap and Men, older visitors needing minimum creature comforts can rent rooms for VND120,000 per night at local houses. The rooms are quite clean, despite sparse furnishings and the absence of air-conditioning. Moreover, many owners offer to do the cooking for tourists from seafood specials to normal family meals.
One worrying aspect is that although Nam Du has many things to offer in terms of simplicity and quietness, many visitors have been disappointed by the increasing amounts of trash they have come across. Some of the beautiful beaches are also infested by trash, some reports say.
Another problem tourists have complained about the islands is that power is cut for certain hours every day, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
While power cuts can be accepted in such an area, the same cannot be said of trash.
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