Once closed off to the public, Cham Islands is now open for tourists and locals who wish to go on an island getaway trip. Located about 15 km offshore from Hanoi lies the breathtakingly beautiful Cham Islands, which consists of granite islands. The whole area is part of UNESCO Cu Lao Cham – Hoi An Biosphere, which also includes the quaint town of Hoi An and the waters around them. What makes Cham Island so attractive is that it’s very easily accessible these days and makes for a good day trip. However, it’s also possible to stay here for the night if you’d like to. Beware though that most of the boats don’t operate during certain times of the year, such as September to December, because of the weather. The trip takes about two hours by speedboat and it will drop you off at the main island Hon Lao, which is the only inhabited island and also the largest of the Cham Islands.
There are various things to do here, such as snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, camping on the beach and sunbathing. This is the perfect place to go on vacation if you like tropical climate, sparkling turquoise waters and white sand beaches which resembles the ones you see in postcards. Most visitors do an organised day tour, but it’s possible to also do it independently. Although you’ll be encouraged to do a group tour by the locals, know that you can get here all by yourself. There are some established homestays, and you can even camp on the beach if you’d like to wake up to the sound of waves. But if you do choose to travel here independently, know that there will be some rules you have to follow. Before you couldn’t rent a motorbike for example. This can make it a bit difficult for you to get around. But the rules have changed and you can rent a motorbike these days in Cham Islands, making it much easier for you to go from beach to beach. Then there’s also the admission fees for the beaches, so make sure you know what the real price is so you won’t get ripped off. But what’s good about not going on a tour is that you can choose the places you want to see and avoid the crowds.
Cham Islands is really the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Whether or not you choose to go on a tour or independently, you will guaranteed have a good time here. Besides lounging on the beach all day long, there are also many attractions such as the Cu Lao Cham Museum, where you can get to know more about the Vietnamese traditional customs and history. There’s also the beautiful pagodas, which is a place for worship for locals. You can also go to the markets here and look at all the souvenirs that are sold here. Remember to bargain before you buy anything though, since the actual price is probably lower than the price they say.
If you’re looking for beaches in Cham Islands, there are seven beautiful ones in the biggest island Hon Lao, that are easy to access. They are: Bai Bac, Bai Ong, Bai Xep, Bai Lang, Bai Bim, Bai Huong and Bai Chong – which costs a small fee to enter. If you’re looking for more private and secluded beaches, your best bet is to go to either Bai Bac or Bai Xep. The beach next to the pier, Bang Ong, can get very crowded. But the good thing about it is that there are many restaurants closeby.
For the ones who are interested in traveling to the other islands in the Cham cluster, you can rent a boat. The tour guides usually take up to 10 people on the boat, so make sure you’re a bigger group – it’ll be cheaper for you.
If you’re thinking of traveling to Vietnam anytime soon, make sure that you have all the necessary documents such as a Vietnam visa to present to the immigration officers. The visa application is easy to follow and you can even do it online if you’d like to. It’s the most popular way to acquire a visa. However, you can also go to your nearest Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate to apply there, or do it by mail. But the Visa on Arrival is the most efficient way, the only thing you need is a computer and internet. There’s also no need to send away important documents such as your passport. There’s also a second online option, which is the E-Visa, but this option is only available for certain nationalities.