A Brief Introduction about the Cham Islands
Cham Islands or Cu Lao Cham in Hoi An is a famous destination for both natives and foreigners. Located in Hoi An, Da Nang, Cham Islands consists of 8 small islands, which are Hon Lao, Hon Dai, Hon Ong, Hon Tai, Hon La, Hon Kho Me, Hon Kho Con, and Hon Mo. Cham Islands can be approached through Cua Dai beach. Especially, a part of the Cham Islands, the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, was recognized as one of the World Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 2009. It has also gained recognition as a Vietnam Scenic Site.
The Cham Islands are currently under the administration of Tan Hiep Commune of Hoi An city in Quang Nam Province. Although tourism earns Cham Islands a tremendous amount of turnover, fishing is still regarded as the major occupation for habitants there as the income from tourism is highly dependent on seasons and other factors. Notably, 2020 has just witnessed a significant decrease in tourism and numerous types of services due to the pandemic COVID-19. However, in these recent months, tourism is encouraged by the government, and this destination is no exception. Biodiversity, ancient landscapes, and breath-taking beaches have been attracting thousands of tourists coming from other cities and countries.
To discuss further, we would like to go through some aspects of the Cham Islands. The very first one to mention is its special geography. Cham Islands in Hoi An is a lower extension of granite blocks to the southeast. The granite blocks mentioned are known as Bach Ma – Hai Van – Son Tra that belong to the Hai Van complex of the early Triassic age. Their major components involve biotite granite and two-mica granites.
An agglomeration of one large island in Cu Lao Cham, surrounded by seven other small islands, is capable of covering an area of up to 15 square kilometers. It is situated in the Southeast Asia Sea, specifically 16 kilometers to the coast and 19 kilometers to the east of Hoi An Ancient Town, Da Nang. The largest island there is claimed to be a circular-shaped one and comprise an area of 1,317 hectares (3,250 acres), along with an average altitude of 500 meters.
Besides, two peaks can be observed on the island; the first one is 517 meters (1,696 ft), lying in the center of the island. The second peak is 326 meters (1,070 ft) high, situated in the western end. On the largest island in Cu Lao Cham, Hoi An, people established two fishing villages, which are Bai Lang, with docking piers, and a smaller one called Bai Huong. Bai Chong Beach is the most famous beach on the island. The islands fall under the administrative jurisdiction of Hoi An City and functions as a defensive wall for the ancient town.
These ancient islands are considered as appealing to many seafarers for their favorable anchorage facilities off Bai Lang village on Hon Lao island, where a fresh water supply is also provided. A special fact about these destinations is that they were once corroborated by early Chinese colonists from 700 AD. Should you be interested, the islands are accessible by a three-hour canoe journey or by speed boats in about half an hour from the nearest mainland point.
The next aspect of the Cham Islands to discuss is long-lived history. Archaeologists claim that Cham people were the initiates to settle down in Cham Islands 3000 years ago. However, business contacts with the outside were not established until 200 years later. The Cham islands were then occupied by the Cham and made use of transshipment to the mainland. In Cham Islands, plentiful architectural monuments that date back to the 18th and 20th centuries are discovered and reported, which include the Than Yen Sao shrine constructed as early as 1843 at Bai Huong, as well as the Hai Tang Pagodas in 1753 on the western hillside of Hon Lao. Other constructions and features such as monuments, dikes, and basins to grow rice on terraces are also found in the interior forest areas in Cham Islands.
Last but not least, Cham Islands’ resources of biodiversity, remarkably aquatic, the Cham’s traditional values, and its popular Salanganes swallows would be one of the most attractive features to many tourists. The enriched aquatic resources of the islands comprise 165 hectares (410 acres) of coral reefs as well as 500 hectares (1,200 acres) of seaweeds. In Cu Lao Cham, 135 species of corals, four species of tiger shrimps, and 84 species of mollusks are also found out. Especially, some of these species are on the list of Vietnam’s and the World’s Red Book of Endangered Species. Notably, people have also studied and invented medicinal plants in Cham Islands, which makes the islands’ resources even more valuable and nourished.
The traditional resources of the Cham people of the islands include wet-rice agriculture, fishing, pepper, cinnamon bark, ivory, and wood trading with neighboring nations, which is approachable through the port of Hoi An. The islands are also well-known for the Salanganes swallows whose nests have made a fortune to the local people. Strange as it may sound, the expensive Chinese dish of bird’s nest soup comes from these nests. Hence, swallow nest harvesting has been regarded as an important industry for local people, and it also contributes significantly to the state’s revenue. The annual statistics of swallow harvest are collected then reported to be approximately 1.4 tons, costing US$4,000 per kilogram.
What Are The Best Times to Visit Cham Islands?
The most appropriate time to visit Cham Islands, as well as Da Nang would occur from March until September. The leading reasons for this are the perfect weather conditions and the sea levels there. Should you have any plans to dive or snorkel during your visit to Cham Islands, we would recommend that you book your tour between June and August. If that is possible, it would be one of the most memorable experiences to have in the Cham Islands. You can easily find numerous dive centers and tour companies offering day trips to Cu Lao Cham Marine Park online for advanced booking with a reasonable cost as there are hundreds of them, where you will be amazed by a variety of colorful corals and marine life.
The Cham Islands must not be accessed during the monsoon period, which takes place between October and February. This is because the islands then experience a condition of strong winds and waves that make traveling dangerous. It is also explicable that no trips to Cham Islands are made available at this time during the year. No matter what you do, safety always comes first. Therefore, it is highly advisable that the Cham Islands should be reached from Match to September.
How Can You Get There?
There are many ways for a visitor to reach Da Nang, then Cu Lao Cham, including road, flight, and train. First, let’s look at how we can arrive at Da Nang.
Reaching Da Nang by flight
This is the fastest and most expensive method to travel to Da Nang or anywhere; however, ticket discounts can always be found, and there are many good deals to bargain as there are types of discounts that give you up to 50 percent, and your transport costs would be much cheaper than usual.
This usually happens during national holidays, or months, except for June, July, August, which are referred to as the tourism season of the year. You can find numerous domestic and international airlines providing flights to Da Nang Airport. Some popular airlines to look for are Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airway, and Vietjet. Moreover, Da Nang is connected with all the key cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Vinh, Can Tho, Da Lat, Hai Phong, and many others, as well as internationally, with Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, HongKong, Macau, Tokyo, and more.
Reaching Da Nang by road
Cabs are available in nearby cities like Hue and Hoi An from around 450,000 VND. They are easily booked from hotlines of taxi brands or transport supporting apps, including Be, GoViet, or most popular these days – Grab. This means of transportation can even be arranged by the hotels in which you are staying with proper fee information.
Reaching Da Nang by train
Da Nang railway station is located at Hai Phong street, which is 5 km away from the city center. The locations you can reach via the railway network would be Hue, Hanoi, and Saigon. This is one of the cheapest ways to travel to Da Nang, and it is considered as a suitable and can be interesting means of transportation for the youth.
Reaching Da Nang by bus
Da Nang bus station is one of the busiest ones in Vietnam due to the massive amount of people using it as a means to reach their destination at a low cost. What makes it so special is that many bus lines connect both domestically and internationally (Laos) from early morning till late night. The domestic lines that you can take comprise ones from Kon Tum, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Lat, Vinh, Hue, Hanoi are few cities. This station also provides buses running to Da Nang from countries such as Laos, Pakse, Savannakhet, Vientiane, and Tha Khaek.
Local transport in Da Nang
Taxis are the most available, reasonable, and common means for tourists in Da Nang with some fine Taxi brands such as Taxi Xanh, Mai Linh, and Vinasun. Surprisingly, the drivers can speak fluently in English and charges vary from 12,000 VND to 15,000 VND for a kilometer, which is acceptable. Also, if you’re on a limited budget, riding on a Motorcycle Taxi can save you a great deal of money. In the case that you want to hire and ride on your own, you can hire a motorbike to discover the city freely. However, this may require you to get an international driving permit and license from your own country (supposing that you are a foreigner), and then only you can rent it. Such services can charge around 10,000 VND for every two kilometers, or the cost would be counted daily, which is around 150,000 VND. Foreign visitors should also take care while driving in the crazy traffic of Da Nang because an accident can cause you great issues just because you’re a foreigner.
Traveling to Cham Islands
The islands may take you approximately 30 minutes from Chua Dai Beach when traveling via boat express, and it would cost about U$10 per individual (equals to 200,000 – 230,000 VND). Since Da Nang and Hoi An are the two famous tourist attractions, there are numerous tour companies and agencies that organize day trips to Cu Lao Cham Marine Park. These typically comprise hotel transfers, snorkeling equipment, lunch, and an English-speaking guide, if required. Provided that you’re going to stay in a hotel on Hon Lao Island, you would find a local boat that departs from Cua Dai Harbour opening at 08:30. It is highly recommended getting to the harbor by 07:00 though since locals also take this boat to get to the island. Tickets cost is 100,000 VND for each person on board, and you’re required to fill out your personal information on a form upon boarding.
Accommodation Suggestions When in Cham Islands
Apart from transportation, this post will also provide you with several accommodations from hotels, resorts, to homestays. Now, let’s kick it!
Eco Lux Riverside Hotel & Spa
Eco Lux Riverside Hotel & Spa is a four-star hotel, featuring a restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool. Located in Hoi An, it will only take you an 8-minute walk from Thanh Ha Village to Cham Islands. There is also a fitness center available, along with air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom. Notably, this hotel has a garden and provides a grill, which makes it an ideal place for accommodation bookings.
All rooms in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV, an electric teapot, and some of which even have a balcony. Every room at the Eco Lux Riverside Hotel & Spa comes with a seating area. They also offer a buffet or American breakfast at Eco Lux Riverside Hotel & Spa, and the price is included in the initial payment, and car rental is available at the hotel.
One more advantage of the Eco Lux Riverside Hotel & Spa is that if clients speak in English, Russian and Vietnamese, staff will be capable and happy to provide guests with helpful information on the area at the receptionist’s desk. Thanh Ha Pottery Village, a reputable destination is only 1 kilometer from here, and the Japanese Covered Bridge is 2.6 kilometers from the property. The nearest airport is Da Nang International Airport, which is 25.7 kilometers from the starting point.
Hoi An Odyssey Hotel
Hoi An Odyssey Hotel is a four-star hotel situated in the Cam Nam district in Hoi An, which is less than a kilometer, 601 meters to be specific, from Hoi An Ancient Town. Hoi An Odyssey Hotel features a year-round outdoor pool and a sun terrace, and this is one of the most appealing characters to their customers. The biggest advantage of Hoi An Odyssey Hotel is that all in-house guests can enjoy a daily complimentary shuttle bus to the property’s private beach, as well as meals from its restaurant or a drink at the bar.
Popular tourist attractions such as the Japanese Covered Bridge and Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation are only 701 m from Hoi An Odyssey Hotel, which can be reached by walking, motorbike, or taxi, if necessary. The nearest airport is Da Nang International Airport, which is 15 miles from the hotel.
All rooms in the hotel are equipped with fine air-conditioning systems and fitted with a flat-screen cable TV and a mini-bar. Some of its units obtain a seating area to relax in after a busy day, which can be a plus point to some visitors. Others may include views of the pool or river.
Guests can access the 24-hour front desk for currency exchange, ticketing and tour services, and other information needed. There is also a gift shop on-site, selling souvenirs. Guests are welcomed to rent bicycles and cars at reasonable prices, and the fee would be included in the final payment. Besides, airport transfers can be arranged at an additional charge flexibly, which is supporting clients.
Maichi Villa Hoi An
MaiChi Villa Hoi An is a wonderful place for accommodations while staying there for its features of a restaurant, free bikes, an outdoor swimming pool, and a bar in Hoi An. Maichi also has a garden, and the villa is close to several noted attractions, for example, it may take around an 8-minute walk from the Japanese Covered Bridge, 600 kilometers from Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation, and a 12-minute walk from Hoi An Historic Museum. The property has a 24-hour receptionist desk, a tour desk, and supports currency exchange for guests.
All rooms at Maichi Villa are equipped with air conditioning systems, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, an electric teapot, a shower, a hairdryer, and a desk, along with several conveniences for guests. The villa offers some certain units that consist of a balcony and pool view, and every room has a private bathroom, a closet, and a seating area.
Tuan Thanh Homestay
Tuan Thanh Homestay is a great place for tourists at a cheap price, which can be as low as 330,000 VND per night per room. This homestay is just a few steps from Tan Hiep Market and a 3-minute walk from Cham Island Pier. Guests are free to have their meals at the on-site restaurant and gain free WiFi access.
Some units in Tuan Thanh Homestay would have a seating area for your convenience. A terrace or balcony are featured in specific units, and every room is equipped with a private bathroom with a bath or shower and bidet, with bathrobes and slippers provided. There is also a 24-hour front desk at the property, supporting guests in terms of means of transportation renting, currency exchange, and other information.
What to See in The Cham Islands?
As mentioned, the Cham Islands became a famous tourist attraction due to its breath-taking landscapes, magnificent constructions, and biodiversity. There should be numerous things to pay a visit to while you are in the Cham Islands in Hoi An. Down below would be the most must-see places in the Cham Islands. Let’s have a glance!
Cham Island Marine Museum
The first stop that tourists may want to pay a visit is Cham Island Marine Museum. This is where visitors can get to know about the island’s history, traditional customs, festivals, and a great diversity of sea creatures as many of the earliest cultures, as well as constructions were found here.
One of the earliest cultures discovered was Sa Huynh and Champa, and scientists have found the legacies of these civilizations. Some of them are currently on display at the Cham Island Marine Museum. This place has been considered as one of the most absorbing spots and also gives you the general view of the island and locals’ lifestyle, so it deserves one of the things to see and do in Cham island.
Especially, you would get to observe the most colorful coral reefs, and one of the most outstanding biodiversity. The Museum was recognized by UNESCO in 2009 as one of the World Biosphere Reserves, which has embraced the place’s values in terms of both history and conservation.
Cham people’s Ancient Well
The second place to visit is the Cham people’s Ancient Well. The ordinary wells you often see are created through digging, thrilling, or boring. However, these were an exception as they were created by putting stones together on the hillside to store underground water and then let it flow as needed. How extraordinary they were!
If you travel from Dong Ha City, then go along Provincial Road 75 for five kilometers before reaching Tan Van Village on the left side, you will find the location of the Pheo Well. The Pheo Well is the only one among the 16 others that people dug into the ground to get fresh water. This unique creation has a monolith of one-meter height and is shaped like a tube and buried into the ground by half.
Whenever there is a water demand, the locals simply take water out of the tube. On the days when no one comes and gets the freshwater, the well may replenish then overflow through a hole on the stone tube to a ditch before it reaches a paddy or vegetable fields down the hill. Gio An Commune now is the administrator of eight villages, only two of which have no stone wells of Cham people built.
Continuing our journey on Provincial Road 75 for around one more kilometer, we will be likely to arrive at Long Son Village on our right side where we can discover the Mang well, and should we reach Hao Son Village, it would be on the left of which the three wells of Ong, Ba, and Gai are situated.
The three wells have simple structures. They were laid a layer of stones which is narrow and deep for water deposit, then the next layer was added which is wider for storing water. When the well is filled up, it will flow into a ditch to water the rice paddy and wild watercress in the surrounding, which is a typical type of vegetable in this area.
Next to Hao Son, we have arrived in Gia Binh village with Dia well. Near the well is a fish pond that makes use of the water from it. As we arrived at the Gio An Commune’s center, we will approach An Nha village and Dao well. Even though the well is no longer in use, it has the most complete structure which could provide water for many people at one time. The ancient well system is not only rare but unique, and can be considered a treasure, regarding historical values. One surprising fact is that the water flowing out of the well from the natural source of water on the hillsides is always pure.
Hai Tang Pagoda
Hai Tang Pagoda is situated on Hon Lao, Cu Lao Cham, Da Nang, which is 15 kilometers away from Cua Dai beach. Hence, tourists can only access the island by boat or canoe, this can be an inconvenience to some people, but in the end, it is all worth the experience. Traveling will take you over 1 hour to go to Bai Lang harbor in Cu Lao Cham Island by boat and about 30 minutes by canoe, which is 1 hour and a half in total. After this, you may reach the Hai Tang pagoda by a 300-meter walk.
Hai Tang pagoda was constructed in the eighteenth century to the northern Cu Lao Cham Island. But in 1848, the construction was relocated about 200 meters away due to the storm occurring in that year. The ancient triple gate is 5 meters high, 6 meters long, and 1.5 meters wide. The Hai Tang Pagoda’s gate has totally 4 pillars with lotus shapes on the top and a yin yang tile roof. Opposite the gate is a Bodhisattva statue that lies in the center of a lotus pond.
The main shrine is equally divided into 3 rooms. Tam The Buddha is worshiped in the middle room; next up would be Tam Thanh Quan Cong, Chau Xuong, and Luu Binh statues on the right, and the left is saved for Dia Tang Bodhisattva. All statues in Hai Tang pagoda were made out of wood instead of bronze and gold statues as we often see these days. As time went by, after approximately 260 years, Hai Tang pagoda still remains its original ancient appearance. One more thing that must be mentioned is the “Song Long Trieu Duong” bell of the pagoda, its early Le dynasty style has indicated that the bell was cast before the Hai Tang pagoda was built.
If you are planning to drop by Hai Tang pagoda, no abbot would be found here as there is only an elderly couple looking after the pagoda every day. Should you have the opportunity to travel to Cu Lao Cham Island, you should visit the Hai Tang pagoda to rest your mind and soul in this beautiful scenery.
Tourists can visit the Hai Tang pagoda by themselves or attend a Cu Lao Cham full-day group tour provided by many agencies and companies in Da Nang because there would be offers in terms of transport, meals, and tour guide. From Da Nang, visitors can reach Hoi An by bus then take a taxi to Cua Dai harbor, which is the method costing you the least. Then it is optional whether you buy canoe tickets that cost 450,000 VND per trip.
Tan Hiep Market
Tan Hiep Market is one of the most dynamic places in Da Nang with many types of goods that can be found and purchased there. In Tan Hiep Market, you would likely discover the life patterns of the locals through the way they trade and communicate with one another.
Especially, souvenirs for your trip are plentiful there. In the Tan Hiep market, there are also many specialties that you must try before leaving Cu Lao Cham. Those specialties are dried and carefully packaged, which are easy to take away. One of the most best-selling products here is “muc mot nang”. Just like any other market from the big cities, Tan Hiep Market also has the same dynamic and lively vibes, and it is a typical tourist attraction when they visit Da Nang.
Temple of Bird’s Nest Business Founders
Located in Bai Huong, Yen Ancestor Shrine was constructed completely in the early 19th century with an aim to worship the ancestors of the Yen field. It is said that every year, on the 10th of March of the lunar year, local people and those people who exploit cozy nets, hold very solemnly in order to prepare for a new exploiting season. And for them, this is a traditional ceremony.
What to Do During Your Trip to Cham Islands
Since we have gone through what we must not pass when in the Cham Islands, in this part, we will go a little further on what should be done during a vacation in this incredible destination. Now, let’s get down to it!
Camping on the Cham Islands
Camping on the beach would be an amazing experience for anyone at any age. When arriving in Cu Lao Cham, Hoi An, you must not miss the beach camping. However, there are a few things you need to prepare before conducting your camping there. First up, make sure that you have got first aid. This will come into the scene in case you have injuries during your camping. You can never be too careful when it comes to safety.
The next thing would be the boat arrangement. This can be done easily as there are many services at such tourist attractions. Then, you will have to prepare the snack as camping would not be completed without this. It is cheaper to buy food from the mainland, compared to purchasing anything from the stores near your camping location. If you’re on a limited budget, then having your own snack is a great idea. The popular places that tourists often take as their camping location are Chong beach.
Sea Trekking in Cu Lao Cham
Sea trekking is a quite popular activity to take when it comes to a beach vacation. This is not only famous in Da Nang but also in other places such as Nha Trang, Cat Ba, and Quy Nhon. The trips with a tour guide and a detailed timeline for a day can cost you as much as 2 million VND, but there are also more reasonable ones, which can cost you about 1 million VND. This activity is highly advisable as it is suitable for families, couples, and groups.
Trips to book can be found on the website Tripadvisor, which is a reliable and popular one among those who love traveling. We hope that if you have the chance to drop by Cu Lao Cham, you would take sea trekking and gain yourself beautiful memories from it.
Just like sea trekking, snorkeling can also be booked as a day trip and there would be a tour guide and a detailed timeline during your day trip as mentioned. Tripadvisor also offers bookings at reasonable costs. For example, you can take a trip beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. During such a trip, you will not only gain access to snorkeling but also other interesting activities that can be participated in.
Getting Around on Boat and Swimming
Getting around by boat and swimming are probably the two most commonly taken by tourists when going on a trip to Cu Lao Cham. The Cham Islands private tours with going by boat and swimming are plentiful. It is advisable that these activities should be group ones as many people would say that the more the merrier. Tours for such activities in Cu Lao Cham may cost you around 1 million VND. In addition, you may find scuba diving and observing coral reefs favorable adding up to the mentioned activities.