A trip to Cham Island
Cham island off Hoi An in central Vietnam has been a popular destination as its wild and peaceful nature offers just what people need after a tour of nostalgia through the ancient town.
The island is the biggest in a group of islands 15 kilometers off Cua Dai in Hoi An, and is known for its long white sandy coast, clean beaches and arguably the freshest and cheapest seafood in the country.
Below are several tips for you to get there and have a perfect trip.
The best time to visit the island is between March and August when there is a lot of sunshine and the water is warm and calm. There are typhoons during the rest of the year.
If you are in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can book a flight or train to Da Nang, which is 30 kilometers from Hoi An. A plane ticket costs between US$25-101 depending on the airline and flight time while traveling by train costs $14-30 from Hanoi and $41-55 from Ho Chi Minh City.
From Da Nang, you can take a public bus on route number 01 that costs less than a dollar or a taxi, or you can rent a motorbike for between $3 and $5.5 a day.
Buses to Da Nang cost only around $17 from Giap Bat or Nuoc Ngam terminal in Hanoi and $20 from Mien Dong terminal in Ho Chi Minh, and they will take you straight to Hoi An.
Speedboat tickets to Cham are available around Cua Dai beach or at travel agents in Hoi An for VND150,000 ($7). The boats operate between 8 and 10:30 a.m. every day and take around 20 minutes to reach the island.
Wooden boats take more time but only cost around VND30,000 ($1.4) and VND80,000 ($3.7) if you have a motorbike. Tickets are available at Bach Dang pier from 7 a.m. every day and Cua Dai pier at 8 a.m.
Many solo travelers bring a motorbike as it is the most convenient form of transport on the island. There is no problem if you cannot bring one since families here rent them out for VND80,000-200,000 ($3.7-9) a day.
Local families also rent out extra rooms to tourists. A double room costs VND150,000 ($7) a night and a single room, VND50,000-100,000 ($2.3-4.6).
A wilder choice would be turning the whole journey into a camping trip by renting a tent from locals for VND150,000.
Boat trips around islands cost another VND500,000-1.5 million ($23-69) and includes coral diving.
Now, are you hungry yet?
Vendors of appealing fresh seafood along the coast are pretty sure you are, and they have the best dishes at rock-bottom prices – half the mainland price and a quarter of those charged by restaurants in large cities.
Squid is among the best seafood on offer on Cham Island. Photo credit: Vnexpress
You just need to choose your favourite creature and the vendor will make a tasty dish in less than five minutes. The secret is that they are all fresh and it does not take much time for cooking.
The island is best known for squid and crabs, but its abalone, urchins and forest vegetables are worth trying as well.
Cham island is not just landscape and seafood but also has a lot of history.
There’s a sea museum showcasing the past and the habits and specialties of the island, a 200-year-old well belonging to the Cham people, which is very similar to other Cham wells in Hoi An, just older.
A temple on Yen (Swifts) island venerates the first people to breed swifts in the country to collect their nest to use as a tonic.
Hai Tang pagoda on Hon Lao island near Cham. Photo credit: VnExpress
Religious travelers can stop by Hai Tang Pagoda, built in 1758, under a mountain to the west of Hon Lao Island. Locals and traders come here to pray.
There is a festival celebrated in the third lunar month to commemorate the first canary farmers in the area and another in the fourth month to worship the sea gods and pray for safe and successful fishing trips.
Both feature boat races and other traditional games.
Tan Hiep Market next to the wooden boat piers sells different kinds of seafood and souvenirs if you want to take gifts home. Feel free to bargain and bring down prices by 20 percent.
Now, for your luggage. You should bring a hat, slippers, sunglasses, sun cream, antiseptic cream (especially if you plan to camp), and personal papers so you can rent things.
Do not bring plastic bags because the island has a ban on them. Another reason to visit it, yeah?