halong bay cruise

Cu Lao Cham, the beautiful offshore island

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Cu Lao Cham is known as a beautiful island with various wild animals and legendary landscapes. The large island consists of eight islets, 20 kilometres off the coast from Hoi An Ancient Town in Quang Nam Province. Cu Lao Cham Island has wonderful sand beaches, forested hills and the sea. With primitive landscape, the island is ideal for camping, swimming and scuba diving to enjoy the corals and beautiful marine life. image
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At the summer, if you reach for the island by normal boat, it takes 2 and half hour, but only 30 minutes by speed boat. There are 10 guesthouses for tourists who don’t want to spend the night in a tent on the beach. Transport from the mainland to the islet is quite comfortable. History Cham islands are supposed to be the first place where Cham people landed, coming to Quang Nam Province from Indonesia (small monuments, dikes and basin to grow up rice on terraces are hidden in the forest, 17th century pagodas and small temples in the two villages). Therefore, being well-known since earlier Cham domination (from 4th to 14th century), the island became one of the main port of Champa Kingdom. Situated some eight miles offshore Hoi An, it was also part of Hoi An historical international trading. From 15th century till the beginning of 20th century, the old city was a meeting point for international vessels and junks. According to archaeologists, Cu Lao Cham first settled there 3,000 years ago and established business contacts with external countries some 1,000 years ago. Up to now, Cu Lao Cham has preserved many architectural constructions which date back to the 18th and 20th century. They include the shrine dedicated to Than Yen Sao, built in 1843 at Bai Huong and Hai Tang Pagoda, built in 1753 on the western hillside of Hon Lao. Still, Cu Lao Cham has more to offer. After a three-hour canoe trip, one may hop over to the famed Well of the Cham people. Topography The island comprises an archipelago of one large island and seven smaller islands. The largest island - Hon Lao, covering 1,317 ha, is circle shape at the high of 500m. There are nice beaches at Bim and Ong beach. The topography of Cu Lao Cham Island is dominated by two peaks: a 517m peak in the centre of the island and a 326m peak at the western end. Natural forest here covers 532 ha of the nature reserve, equivalent to 35% of the total area, while plantation forest covers a further 30 ha. Biodiversity values The island is a place where shelter for value swallow birds. The natural vegetation of the islands is lowland evergreen forest, that is natural with a lot of woods and rare animals. Scientists report the occurrence of macaques Macaca sp., monitor lizards Varanus sp. and pythons Python sp. To date, 265 vascular plant species have been reported from the nature reserve. Furthermore, a species of swiftlet Collocalia sp. is reported to nest on Hon Kho within the nature reserve. Cu Lao Cham is also home to salanganes, birds whose nests have long been considered a delicacy by aristocrats and the wealthy. The nests may cost as much as US $4,000 per kilogram. In a beautiful day, tourists are able to see cliffs where salanganes build their nests and talk with salangane-nest takers. Around the island has a lots of color corals under the water. Situated in a salty-water area, this square-bottom well, amazingly, provides clear fresh water all year round. Enjoyable extras include white-sand, pristine beaches and captivating attractions evocatively named Bai Ong, Bai Bim, Bai Chong, Bai Bac, Suoi Tinh, Cau Mo, Suoi Ong and so on, where tourists can relax, go hunting, fishing even fishing octopuses. Visiting Cu Lao Cham, you also have chances to view the sea swallows' nests clinging to the towering cliff. Cu Lao Cham wins kudos for its seafood and delicacies (octopuses, lobsters, fish's fin, abalone, kaki, hind, cholonia's eggs, bird's nests) and fascinating souvenirs (pearls, conches, tortoise-shells). Moreover, you can take a tour to Lang beach for seeing some interest places as such Au Thuyen-a shelter for boats at bad weather, a 100-year Tay Tang Pagoda remarking the Puddhism that came here for long time ago, Ong temple - a place worshipping a big fish burried here. Close to Hoi An town, Cu Lao Cham really cherishes high potential for tourism development.
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This whole trip is a very mixed bag and it depends on what you expect and how you perceive things if in the end you will have fun. At all stages you will feel like cattle. From the marina in Hoi An, to the more or less guided tour through the island village (way too many tourists, the locals have a very hard time getting through the narrow alleys with their motorbikes). Everywhere you find occasions to spend some money on trinkets.

While everything seems to be very well organized (i.e. they made sure we all really have our life vests on on the 18km to the islands, and as chaotic as it looks, our tour guide never lost anyone) I found the different treatment of local tourists and foreigners quiet off putting ... the guide would explain everything in Vietnamese first and he must have been very funny, the locals all laughed, not so when he spoke English. Before snorkeling the locals got of the boat and we thought that they would not go snorkel, but no, we had to wait for them for 10 minutes on the boats because they got a chance to change :)

The snorkeling is again a huge group event next to several more groups, the coral is damaged (as I witnessed, by locals not having heard the instruction of not standing on the coral, and seeing a local diver GRABBING the coral for balance due to his shoddy buoyancy) but you can spot some sad looking fish. Nevertheless, my kiddo had fun, though he said that he had seen better.

Then the whole big group gets to have lunch together in an overcrowded area of tables / chairs / loungers. Food was not even that bad, a nice communal event actually. Then we had 1h to ourselves at the 'beach'. Most of that beach is boat parking and during lunch time I counted 20 - 30 of them. In the middle is a small part reserved for swimming (but there are no loungers here). What bugged me most was that there was no real place to keep your things safe and dry. With so many location changes you want to hang on to your stuff for dear life. The boats are very full, so do not expect any kind of space or privacy when getting ready for the water.

The trip is not cheap (we talked among ourselves and found out that everyone paid 25$ / 500Kd, but some have been quoted higher prices initially) and it appears this is all run by one monopoly tour operator.

Having said all that, if you have days to kill in Hoi An, this is a nice diversion. If you are short on time, you might as well skip this one.

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We were lucky that our tour guide recognised that we were more interested in being active... we spent a couple of lovely hours with a local fisherman on his boat - and managed to communicate despite the lack of shared language. We swam and snorkelled from the boat which was refreshing although in terms of aquatic adventure Cham Island is probably not up there! The (very small) fish we caught were cooked as part of our lunch but they didn't make good eating. The island we 'landed' on has a fascinating history and culture - must learn more about that!

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The island itself is clean and beautiful but the tour was disappointing.
The best way to enjoy this island is to take local ferry (tàu chợ) departing around 7 a.m, then stay 1 night with the local (homestay) and drive bike around the island.

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Cham island with year round cool climate, rich flora and fauna, particularly marine resources and resource nests. Coral reefs in the region Cham Island Marine scientists are also appreciated and are included in the protection list. Visitors to Cham Island will experience moments of poetic, floating on the water. From Hoi An ancient town under a boat tour through the village along the Thu Bon River and Cua Dai poetic'll Cham Island looms in the distance behind a shimmering beauty.

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Great little motorboat cruise on the sapphire blue waters out to Cham island. Guide was great, good english. Walking the small island and visiting an ancient Pagoda and exploring the village was enchanting. We snorkelled the small coral reef and found blue anenmone, clown fish and angel fish and clams and many other assorted sea life. Cruised to a beach and had a delicious lunch under the palm trees, then to finish off swam in the clear warm waters before heading back to Hoi An. A great day out, and well worth the look.

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