• Discover the Cham Islands, the offshore call of Hoi An
  • Discover the Cham Islands, the offshore call of Hoi An

  • on Aug 14, 2019       By: Bảo Ngọc
  • Want to disconnect from urban life and immerse yourself in another world off the coast of the beautiful Hoi An? Wild beaches, tranquility and this total change of scenery in the archipelago of Cu Lao Cham or the Cham Islands will surely be enough to delight all hikers, divers, and photographers.

    cu lao cham sea and bridge

    Overview

    Location: 15km from Cua Dai Beach, Tan Hiep Town, Hoi An city, Quang Nam Province (Central).

    With an area of almost 16 km2, the Cham Islands are a biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO in 2009. They can be reached by canoe or boat from Cua Dai in just 20 minutes. Cu Lao Cham is made up of eight islands: Hon Lao, Hon Dai, Hon Mo, Hon Kho Me, Hon Kho Con, Hon La, Hon Tai and Hon Ong, of which Hon Lao is the largest and most populated. It is a great place for tourist activities.

    History

    The history of the Cham Islands is intimately linked to the ancient port city of Hoi An because of its many footprints of Sa Huynh, Cham and Dai Viet cultures. In ancient times this place played a crucial role on the maritime map of the eastern sea where many oriental and western boats did trade.

    Geography

    Known for its exceptional biodiversity, on the Cham Islands you will discover an underwater treasure rich in rare species and wonderful multi-colored coral reef preserved in the best conditions. Adding to this is the wild surrounding beauty of endless sandy beaches and emerald transparent water making it a paradise for nature lovers.

    cu lao cham seven beaches

    In total, the Cham Islands are home to 7 beaches stretching from the north-west to the south-east:

    - Bac Beach: unexplored wild caves
    - Ong Beach: near the pier, the busiest area where the restaurants are very lively at noon for lunch
    - Lang Beach: is not a resort but rather a fishing pier located towards the Xom Cam residential area.
    - Xep beach: undeveloped, deserted and peaceful
    - Chong beach: beautiful coast, coconut trees, bathrooms (15,000 VND/person), a lake crossed by a small bridge, two bungalows
    - Bim beach: free resort, clean water, remarkable rocks
    - Huong beach: best place to taste the seafood, may not be conducive for water activities because of the daily anchors.

    Each having its own charm, the beaches of the Cham Islands are all about 20m wide and between 100 and 300m long. So you just have to find the one that best suits your expectations.

    Which tour to go?

    In case of time constraints, you can discover Cu Lao Cham yourself during the day or have a custom tour. For lovers of the sea a tour of at least two days is ideal.

    When to go to Cham Islands in Hoi An?

    The best time to go is between March and August when the sea is calm and you can expect beautiful warm sunshine. Throughout the rest of the year the risk of storms can render the islands inaccessible.

    Combine a visit to Cu Lao Cham with an evening in Hoi An and lose yourself in the night time streets lit with hundreds of radiant lanterns. Also, do not miss the 14th and 15th lunar days where a magnificent festive atmosphere is abundant in this charming old city.

    The traditional festivities are a great opportunity to discover the rites and traditions which have been enriched over time through these annual festivals. Don’t miss the Feast of Fishermen (3-4th of the 4th lunar month) and the Recognition Party of the tradesman of salangane (9-10th of the 3rd lunar self).

    How to get there?

    Starting from Hoi An, Cu Lao Cham is accessible by canoe or boat.

    - Canoeing from Cua Dai gets you there in 20 minutes (150,000 dongs per person). Several shuttles are scheduled during the day. This is a more practical and also more sensational way.

    - By boat: less expensive and much faster, a simple but thrilling way over the water.

    - Departure from Bach Dang dock at 8am (50,000 dongs for domestic tourists, 100,000 dong for internationals and an extra 30,000 for each motorcycle). Back at 1 pm from Cu Lao Cham,

    - Departure from Cua Dai returns at 11am from Cu Lao Cham.

    Where to stay on the Cham Islands?

    * Homestay

    When looking for accommodation you will not find a resort or hotel. But, there are many quaint homestays which will allow you to enjoy the secret corners of the island.

    The cost of homestays vary between 50,000 to 100,000 dong / person or 150,000 / couple.

    There are a variety of homestay types offered at Bai Ong, Bai Lang and Bai Huong Beaches.

    Good addresses:

    - Bai Ong: homestay Tam Hien and Bich Van

    - Bai Lang: Homestay Huyen Van Tri and Thu Trang

    - Bai Huong: Homestay Ms. Lan and Ms. Hiep

    Amenities offered by Homestays: Meals, laundry, rental vehicles and boats, private guide tours, diving tours to the coral reef. 

    Adding to all these great amenities is the kindness and warm welcome of the residents.

    *Camping

    Besides homestays and especially if you travel in a large group another option is camping. In Bai Ong and Bai Huong Beaches these additional services are available.

    The beaches of Bai Bim and Bai Xep offer more open spaces and may be a more flexible choice.

    What to visit in Cu Lao Cham?

    This place is not just a paradise for lazy beach activities; it also has plenty to awaken the taste buds. Be sure to try the delicious fresh local seafood dishes which you cannot find anywhere else and do not forget to take note of these other interesting places to extend your adventure:

    The Maritime Museum of Cu Lao Cham: the first stop upon your arrival is the maritime museum. This is an opportunity to garner a wide view of the islands history, activities, traditions and local specialties.

    The former well of the Cham: also known under the other name, "Xom Cam", this vestige dated for almost 200 years is typical of the wells of Cham. It is similar to those which exist in Hoi An. According to the inhabitants it represents an inexhaustible source of water which can meet local needs all year long.

    The Hai Tang Pagoda: built in 1758, this architectural and religious monument is dedicated to Buddhism and geniuses.

    The Tan Hiep Market: also known as Cu Lao Cham market is located at the corner of the pier. It is a must see destination where you can buy souvenirs and local specialties from the forest and the sea.

    The temple dedicated to the master of the Salangane harvesting craft: nestled in Bai Huong beach and built around the 19th century, this temple is dedicated to the recognition of masters and geniuses of salangane harvesting.

    What to do on the Cham Islands?

    cu lao cham diving

    * Diving to admire the corals

    This activity is part of many programs offered on the Cham Islands. This service is reserved either at the platform or through your accommodation.

    The diving fee: 150.000 VND per person, complete equipment and guide included

    * Visit the islands by boat

    In addition to Hon Lao Island one can hire a boat to explore the other 7 islands

    - Fixed price (morning or afternoon): 600,000 dongs / boat of 10 people

    - Price to visit Yen Island alone: 300,000 dongs / boat.

    * Rent a motorbike to discover every possible corner

    Note that the trails are rough for the most part but are passable for experienced drivers. You can have an unforgettable trip by improvising your own stops. Who knows, you may accidentally discover a stretch of secret beach or find a breathtaking view of the whole island that most people would never know about.

    * Watch a splendid starry sky

    What could be better than lying on the sandbank, listening to waves and watching a bright starry sky? This is the most romantic experience to try during your stay.

    Culinary specialties of Cu Lao Cham

    sea food cu lao cham

    Try the famous squid which is dried in the sun. Cu Lao Cham is well known for a wide variety of calamari of which those dried in the sun are always the best.

    Stone crab: This species, which only feeds on grass in the rocks, is also called "red crab" and "vegetarian crab". This species is the crème of the crop as far as local seafood goes. Stone crab dishes are served with exceptional fresh quality rivaling many other seafood products.

    Shell vú nàng (a kind of cellana): On the day of the full moon visitors will have the chance to enjoy the shells "vu nang" which are served in a variety of succulent dishes.

    Shell "bào ngư": Very rare and known by many names this shell is very popular with gourmands in Cu Lao Cham.

    Forest vegetables: This is a set of 16 species of medicinal herbs that grow at the foot of the mountains at Cu Lao Cham. Cooking them with hot water is the best way to bring out the flavor of these vegetables. The harvest falls in the early summer.

    Cake "banh ít lá gai": Is a traditional cake that is eaten not only in Cu Lao Cham but also many other regions. Still, trying this dish with its particular taste is a pleasant surprise.

    Dining on the Cham Islands, tips and experiences

    At your homestay you can order on the spot dishes made from variety of seafood.

    Meal Price: 50,000 - 80,000 / per person / meal, depending on your choice.

    In the morning air you can go to the beach Bai Huong around 10am to enjoy the freshest dishes at reasonable prices.

    It is more expensive to eat at restaurants along Bai Ong, Bai Lang beaches.

    Traditional festivities

    cu lao cham fishing festival

    Feast of Fishermen 

    Full of color, the Feast of Fishermen is one of the most important traditions for the islanders. Held annually during the 3rd and 4th of April (Lunar calendar) this ancestral rite aims to pray for peace and success of a new fishing season for the villagers.

    Recognition party with respect to the salangane harvest master

    This festival takes place during the 9-10th March (lunar calendar) to honor the founders of the trade related to the harvest of salangane, dating back to the 18th century. Visitors will also be able to enjoy many folkloric performances, traditional games as well as the gastronomic fair...

    Other tips for a trip to Cu Lao Cham

    Since Cu Lao Cham is a World Biosphere Reserve, protecting the environment is a top priority for both the indigenous and visitors alike. If you pack it onto the beach pack it off!

    As it is quite hot on the island you should bring clothes to protect against the bright sun and drink plenty of water. 

    Electricity is not available during the day and only in the evening. Do not forget to make sure you have charged your devices or bring a battery pack.

    Cham Island Discovery Program

    To discover Cu Lao Cham two tours are possible either a tour of 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights.

    2 days 1 night tour 

    Day 1:
    7:00 - Departure to Bach Dang Pier
    10:00 – Receiving room
    10:30 am - Boat rental for a tour of Yen Island (Salangane)
    12:00 - Lunch
    14:00 - Visit of Xom Cam and Bai Lang 
    16:00 - Swimming and diving to appreciate the coral reefs
    19:00 - Dinner

    Day 2:
    7:00 - Motorcycle rental for a tour of the island
    10:00 - Departure for Hoi An

    3 days 2 nights tour 

    Day 1:
    7:00 - Departure to Bach Dang Pier
    10:00 - Receiving room, rest and lunch
    14:00 - Rental of a boat for a tour of the islands, diving to admire the corals; visit Yen Island...
    19:00 - Dinner

    Day 2:
    7:00 - Motorcycle rental for a tour of the island
    10:00 - Stop at Bai Huong for seafood, lunch on the beach
    14:00 - Visit of Xom Cam and Bai Lang 
    17:00 - Swimming and outdoor dining with BBQ on the beach

    Day 3:
    8:00 - Stop at Tan Hiep Market, buy souvenirs
    10:00 - Departure for Hoi An


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