Secluded islands a world away from the daily grind

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Have a hankering for moments of solitude when you feel one with nature, all alone on an uninhabited, beautiful island?

The beach of Ba Hon Dam (three Dam isles) glitters with pebbles of different colors

If you do, the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang has a few islets to offer for such an experience, 41 of them to be exact.

Usually, visitors to the province take a boat trip around the place to see a few islands and caves. This takes about an hour.

There are also some who have chosen to stay on the “neglected” islands for a day or a couple of days to get really close to nature.

The 41 isles are given different names, based on their shapes or other characteristics. People can guess what an islet in the group looks like when they hear its name.

Some of their names are Mong Tay (Fingernail), Kien Vang (Red Ant), Da Lua (Flint), Chen (Bowl) and Mam Xoi (Tray of sticky rice).

Visitors have been so enamored that they have described some of these islands as being as beautiful as the UNESCO world heritage sites like Ha Long Bay and the Phong Nha Cave in the north of Vietnam.

The isles are made of limestone, that host a lot of trees, brooks and caves. They have a diverse ecosystem, with some new species of flora and fauna having been discovered recently.

Local authorities have invested in tourism projects on some of the isles in the group, but most of them are still pristine.

Lucky tourists can sometime see some dolphins swim alongside their boats. The local fishermen consider these creatures their friends and try to avoid having them get caught in their nets.

At the Ba Hon Dam (three Dam isles), there are no luxurious facilities, but this is all the better for experiencing life off the beaten track.

There are seven households on the three isles. There is no electricity, no road and no shops; but the inhabitants are very hospitable. Visitors can borrow pots and pans to cook their own meals, put up their tents or hammocks to enjoy their vacation.

Ba Hon Dam is one name for the Gieng, Duoc and Duong isles. The beaches have a lot of pebbles of different colors that shine in the sun. A bit farther off, the sand on the beaches is white and soft; there is no mud, so it is very clean. It feels like walking on a carpet.

When the tide is high, the three isles are separated and surrounded by the blue sea, and when it is low, a path linking the three isles emerges from the water or remains about 70-80cm below the water surface.

Perhaps it is the only place in Vietnam where people can walk or wade from isle to isle in this fashion.

Explaining the name of Ba Hon Dam, locals say that when the French were in Vietnam, officers and their families visited these isles on boats. French women were then called “Dam” by locals because they usually wore long dresses (Dam in Vietnamese).

Another explanation offered is that the three isles were named Dam Duong, Dam Duoc and Dam Gieng, so the natives just grouped them into Ba Hon Dam.

A day or two spent walking on these quiet beaches, picking up pebbles of different colors, and contemplating the deeper mysteries of life is a peaceful experience. And people are likely to carry the peace within them long after they have left the isles.


Visitors explore a limestone mountain in the sea off Lo Coc Islet

To reach Ba Hon Dam, visitors must get to Chua Hang- Hon Phu Tu first. Take a Rach Gia-Ha Tien bus and get off at Ba Hon (which is 70km from Rach Gia and 20km from Ha Tien). A xe om (motorbike taxi) from there will take you to the wharf, about 13km away, for about VND20,000 (US$1.05). From there a boat ride to the isles costs about VND1 million ($52.5) per boat for 10 people. The boat trips are available from morning till evening.

From Ho Chi Minh City, tourists can take a Vietnam Airlines flight from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to fly to Rach Gia Town, then take a Mai Linh luxury bus or a Rach Gia-Ha Tien bus. If visitors travel by land, they can go to the HCMC Mien Tay Bus Station to buy tickets for a luxury bus to go from HCMC to Rach Gia or from HCMC to Ha Tien.

Foreign tourists should have a Vietnamese interpreter because the locals on the isles are not tour operators and can’t communicate in English.

Reported by Du Mien-Chi Nhan

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