For those who travel to Hoi An, Pham Ha from Luxury Travel Ltd (www.luxurytravel.com.vn) recommends taking a day trip to the green and unspoiled archipelago of Cu Lao Cham.
Today Hoi An is one of the country’s most popular tourist destination thanks to a heady mix of cultural heritage, amazing food, plenty of options for shopping and the fabulous nearby beaches.
However, repeat visitors and there are many of you living in Vietnam will eventually start to wonder what else is around the town’s evident charms. If you are up for a little exploration, one option I always recommend you to my clients is a boat trip to the highly exotic Cu Lao Cham – a group of islands just a few miles from Cua Dai Beach.
The island, which has been recognized as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, is blessed with a cool climate, beautiful and clean beaches with white sands, transparent water and protected marine habitats.
The island group has 3.000 inhabitants most of whom make a living from fishing. It is a 300 square – kilometer archipelago. The island is also called Mother of Cham and has a 518m high mountain with three peaks, Ngoc Long, Tien But and Bat Lao, where the king of Champa lived long ago.
Cham Archipelago has eight islands in all. Cham Island is the biggest and most populated. Of the others, Hon En (island of Bird’s Nest) is home to – you guessed it – a thriving swallow’s nest industry.
Spanning more than 5,000 hectares, the reserve includes 165 hectares of coral reefs and 500 hectares of underwater plant life. They are also home to 947 aquatic species. The vast biological diversity can also be seen in the Cham Island mountains which cover an area of 1550 hectares.
Within immense island forest there many rare animal species, including the endangered ling –tailed monkey, and hundreds of flora species.
Cham residents known as buddy and charming hosts – with the help of Hoi An’s local government has worked hard over the years to attracted more tourists by keeping the islands clean, and their efforts have paid off as more travelers are now discovering the island while they are on holiday in Hoi An.
To get there, check songhoitourism.com or www.luxurytravelvietnam.com or ask your hotel receptionist to book a tour. You will be picked up at your resort or hotel and transported to Hoi An’s Bach Dang Wharf and set off from there.
You can make haste on a speed boat, but the more leisurely option is to set sail at 08:30 am on the Song Hoi – a pretty wooden boat with comfortable chairs.
After two hours, you will reach Bai Long wharf on Cham Island. From there, you can visit the local museum and a walk to the oldest Hai Tang Pagoda through a rice field. The eye –catching pagoda was built in 1758 on the western hillside of La Island. An elderly Buddhist women who offers each tourist a cup of herbal tea on arrival does her best to enhance the tranquility of the area.
You can discover nice beaches at Bim, and Ong Beach and the local market Tan Hiep should not missed. You can also cruise around by boat to the eco-tourism area Bai Chong which is an incredible spot for snorkeling or scuba diving. The underwater world here is truly amazing with various species of fishes swimming in the colorful coral reef.
At noon, lunch is served at a local restaurant right on Bai Chong Beach. Afterwards, you can go trekking, kayaking or just hang out on what is arguably the most gorgeous beach on the island. With hardly a soul around you truly bask in the remote beauty.
The boat returns to Hoi An at 4 pm. You can opt for an overnight stay with home-stay accommodation is available. Its basic, or perhaps, we shall describe it as rustic, but I can only imagine the joy of waking up to this unspoiled heaven on earth.