The gem next door

Thanh Nien News

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Hon Do, a beautiful islet along the south central coast, lays on a foundation of precious coral covered in sand, poplar ranges, and a thick layer of Champa culture.

The destination is located in Ninh Hai District's Thanh Hai Commune, only 20 kilometers from Phan Rang, the province's capital town. It can be reached by bus or motorbike along Provincial Road 702, according to a Tuoi Tre report.
It is called an “islet” for being almost surrounded by the sea, but not fully detached from the mainland.
Its wind-blown roads are dotted with hundreds of colorful salt fields resembling giant mirrors, and the greens of garlic and red onion gardens. Poplar forests planted in 1995 occupy two of its 28 hectares.
Historical data from the province shows that the site was naturally constructed from a coral platform covered by five to 12 meters of sand.
Around the area, people can still run into coral that has piled up like rocks, the habitat of moss and cactus.
A study by Australian oceanographer Lyon De Vantier from the World Wildlife Fund published in 2004 listed around 330 coral species in Ninh Hai District's waters. Many of them belong to 17 families in Hon Do, creating an home for 92 precious sea creatures.
Locals have established special teams to protect the corals from being damaged.
Searches among Hon Do coral reefs before 1995 found 11 stone axes, 11 pieces of bracelets and hundreds of clay and pottery pieces typical of the Sa Huynh Culture, which flourished in the from around three thousand years ago to 200 AD among the predecessors of the Cham people.
Cham writings on stones around the area have still not been deciphered.
But Hon Do is not only appealing as a naturally and culturally preserved site, its attractions can be very down-to-earth like it's famous fragrant garlic and red onion  fields, said to be the most delicious in the country because they are planted in sand.
It produces salty garlic and onion, including a rare kind garlic in which the bulb has one single clove or fewer than normal, thus called “orphan garlic.”
The "orphan" is usually not sold but kept by the locals to soak in wine to make medical lotions for back and belly aches.
Hon Do’s fish specialty is “ca doi” (mugiliformes, which are an order of ray-finned fishes). They can jump out of the water straight up into the air like the flying-fish but they only live in waters around coral reefs or brackish water.
The fish's firm and sweet-smelling flesh makes it a favorite grill dish. It also tastes good fried or cooked in sour soup.
Locals also make their own beverages from seaweed picked along the seaside roads.

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