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Islands once ravaged by pirates now offer tranquil getaway in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta

Sunday, June 28, 2020, 11:21 GMT+7
Islands once ravaged by pirates now offer tranquil getaway in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta
Stunning sunset in the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

While popular beach towns in Vietnam are overrun with tourists during their peak seasons, an archipelago off Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta offers respite from Vietnam’s typical tourist trail with an alluring, tranquil seascape and refreshing sea breezes for the summer.

Spanning a total area of 11 square kilometers and administered by Tien Hai Commune, the Hai Tac (Pirate) archipelago, also known as Ha Tien Islands, sits just 15 kilometers off Ha Tien, a famous beach city in Kien Giang Province.

Accessing the islands is relatively easy, as visitors can take an express boat ride from Ha Tien City. Reservation is highly recommended on weekends and public holidays, as only two companies offer these rides, with merely 100 passengers each ride.

Visitors depart for the islands at 8:00 am and 8:30 am, and return to the mainland at 2:00 pm and 2:30 pm. More rides will be offered during peak times.

A stone slab erected near one of the white sand beaches reiterates Vietnam’s sovereignty with its French name ‘Archipel des Pirates’ (Archipelago of Pirates), probably a trace of the colonial era.

According to what is written on the stele, the archipelago consists of 11 islands, namely Keo Ngua, Kien Vang, Tre Lon, Tre Vinh, Gui, U, Giang, Cho Ro, Duoc, Bo Dap, and Doi Moi.

The number of islands, however, fluctuates between 14 and 16 in different documents.     

Visitors can take a tour around the islands and be treated to tales told by boat owners about the 17th and 18th centuries, when Ha Tien remained free from the local government’ grip and groups of pirates crouched on and attacked trading vessels passing through the waters, which enjoyed an auspicious position.

Circulating rumor that the islands were a treasure trove left behind by the pirates and some locals did strike gold adds a flavor to the tours.

Apart from the tales, holidaymakers are also captivated by the striking, serene landscape and unspoiled beaches which offer fantastic views and refreshing swims.

Among the islands, only six or seven are inhabited, with Tre Lon or Doc Island boasting the largest population of around 3,000 residents. 

A road meandering along the coast serves as the islands’ artery, along with three other newly-built ones.

It takes around half an hour to tour the islands, and tourists will take delight in a wooden bridge stretching to a ledge whose edges are flanked by lush greenery, eerily shaped rock formations, and golden-yellow sandy beaches, making it the ideal place to admire gorgeous coastal sunrise and sunset.

Hammocks hung at intervals can come in handy for visitors exhausted from a long trek.

Hiking, riding bikes along the coastal roads, swimming in the crystal-clear water, and coral reef diving are perfect choices for young people hoping to make quick weekend escape trips.

Food is another delight on the islands. The only sweet soup shop, snugly nestled on the artery road, offers a wide array of must-try sweeties.

Irresistible food options on the islands, particularly fresh seafood, include everything from eateries to small street food vendors. 

Charcoal-grilled sea urchins, which are aplenty and of good quality in the areas thanks to its pristine sea ecosystem, make tempting, nutritional delicacies.

Life here has been more comfortable since a project in October last year connected the community to the national grid and has thus brought electricity and joys to islanders, while enriching nightlife for tourists in those remote areas.

Most residents now earn a decent living by going fishing or providing tourism-related services.

Despite the vibrant vibes the islands have recently put on, visitors who prefer to be alone can still find a world of their own on sparsely populated or uninhabited islets, readily accessible to the main island in only five to ten minutes by boat.

Visitors can hire motorized boats to take them around the islands for sightseeing and fishing.

Boat riders will drop visitors off on an uninhabited island where they will relish swims and cook their catch, before the riders return to pick them up some time later.    

If tourists are into coral reef diving, boat riders will take them to atolls where they will find themselves swimming with schools of richly-colored fish and admiring stunning coral formations beneath.

The Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, located Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, boasts green-covered islets and stunning beaches. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

The Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, located Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, boasts green-covered islets and stunning beaches. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A rather off-the-radar, white-sand beach on Tre Lon Islet, part of the Hai Tac archipelago, nestled off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A rather off-the-radar, white-sand beach on Tre Lon Islet, part of the Hai Tac archipelago, nestled off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A stone slab reiterating Vietnam’s sovereignty is found on a beach in Tre Lon Islet. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A stone slab reiterating Vietnam’s sovereignty is found on a beach in Tre Lon Islet. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Tourists can unwind in hammocks while relishing sunset in the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Tourists can unwind in hammocks while relishing sunset in the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Fresh, nutrient-rich seafood is one of the irresistible attractions in the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Fresh, nutrient-rich seafood is one of the irresistible attractions in the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A fresh catch is charcoal-grilled on the spot in the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A fresh catch is charcoal-grilled on the spot in the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Coral reef diving is one of the attractions in the Hai Tac archipelago, nestled off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Coral reef diving is one of the attractions in the Hai Tac archipelago, nestled off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A bustling wharf in a residential area on Tre Lon Islet, part of the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A bustling wharf in a residential area on Tre Lon Islet, part of the Hai Tac archipelago off Ha Tien City in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

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