Cham Island introduce
Cham island is a cluster of eight islands off the Hoi An coast, belonging to Tan Hiep Commune, Hoi An city, Quang Nam Province. From Cua Dai Beach of Hoi An, you need to travel by boat for about 18 kilometers to reach the clusters of Cham island.
The Vietnamese residents call this cluster Cu Lao Cham. Cu Lao means an island built up by the deposits of soil and rocks from the river or the sea flows. People have inhabited Cham island for about 2,500 years. On Cham island, there are many artifacts proving the existence of the Cham civilization and the Vietnamese people in the past. You can easily encounter buildings that are hundreds of years old. Cham island possesses a large biodiverse area with many flora, fauna, and a rich marine ecology. In 2009, Cham Island Biosphere Reserve was recognized by UNESCO.
The eight islands of Cham island are: Hon Lao, Hon Dai, Hon Mo, Hon Kho Me, Hon Kho Con, Hon La, Hon Tai, and Hon Ong. Hon Lao is the main and the largest island, which also makes it the most populated and the most active. In Hon Lao, there are seven beaches:
- Bai Bac: the northern beach, lots of natural caves, not many people
- Bai Ong: next to the pier, many restaurants, very crowded during lunch time
- Bai Lang: not for swimming, but for fishing
- Bai Xep: deserted and tranquil
- Bai Chong: a beautiful beach, small fee for swimming, can use fresh water and changing rooms
- Bai Bim: swimming is free, good place for taking photos
- Bai Huong: many boats and ships docking, delicious seafood
Cham island is recognized as the second marine park of Vietnam and is the incorporation between the Vietnamese Government and Danish Government (the first is in Nha Trang city, Khanh Hoa Province). The Cham Island Marine Park consists of eight islands and 5,175 hectares of water surface with 165 hectares of coral reef, and 500 hectares of seaweed and seagrass beds, in which hundreds of sea creatures reside.
Best time to visit
From March to August each year is the right time to visit Cu Lao Cham. At this time, it is warm, sunshine while the sea is calm. You should not go to Cu Lao Cham in the rest months because of storms. This island will become isolated.
If you want to combine your trip with a visit to Hoi An ancient town, you should go in the full moon day of every lunar month. To participate in cultural beliefs of the inhabitants of the island, don’t skip festivals such as Cau Ngu (Cầu Ngư) festival (3th and 4th of April of lunar calendar) or Gio To Nghe Yen (Giỗ Tổ Nghề Yến) (Anniversary of a death of Yen field at 9th and 10th of March of the lunar calendar).
How to get to the Cham Islands from Hoi An
To reach Cham island, you first need to arrive in Hoi An city. However, Hoi An doesn’t have an airport within the city. Though Hoi An is in Quang Nam Province and there is an airport in Tam Ky City of Quang Nam, the nearest airport to Hoi An is in Da Nang city. It is very easy to travel to Da Nang International Airport from Hanoi city, Ho Chi Minh City, or anywhere with an airport, because Da Nang is a big city, there’s always flights to Da Nang.
From Hoi An city, there are four ways to get to Cham island:
- Hire a private canoe: this is the fastest but most expensive way to go and it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to reach Cham island. From Cua Dai Pier, Cua Dai Ward, Hoi An city, go to the ticket room and ask to hire a private canoe. You can go with your group of 25 to 35 people and freely visit the island on your own. Hence, the price is quite high, and it varies from eight to 12 million Vietnamese Dong depending on the size of the canoe.
- Buy a canoe ticket: You can also travel by canoe, but you have to go with others. There are many tourist companies who sell tickets to reach Cham island. Just go to the ticket room of Cua Dai Pier and you can choose a company. This method doesn’t let you freely travel, because you must follow the route of the company. The price is around VND 300,000.
- Traveling by wooden boat: This boat is called tau cho, which means boat to the market. Buy the ticket of about VND 50,000 at Cua Dai Pier, the boat leaves at 8 AM. This big wooden boat takes more than 90 minutes to reach Cham island, which means you will arrive at about 10 AM. At 11 AM, the boat will turn back to Hoi An city. Each day, there is only one boat traveling, so if you choose this option, you have to stay at least one night on Cham island.
- Organised tours: There are countless companies in Hoi An that offer day tours to the islands. They normally include snorkelling, visiting beaches, a stop at one of the two villages, and a lunch (detailed here)
Once you step foot on Cham island, you can hire a motorbike to get around. Mostly in any hostel and homestay, you can find motorbikes for rent with the price of around VND 200,000 per day. The roads in Cham island are very steep and narrow, if you don’t know how to ride a motorbike well, do not try, for safety’s sake.
Cham Island accommodation
Accommodations here are mainly homestay, gathered at Bai Lang (Bãi Làng), Bai Huong (Bãi Hương). A two-person room costs about VND 150,000. If you rent in retail, the price of one person is about VND 50,000 – 100,000.
Note: Bai Lang is where timber ships land and Bai Huong is where canoes land. Depending on the moving vehicles, you could choose to stay at a hostel near the dock.
In addition, if you want to immerse yourself in the nature, you could camp at Bai Ong (Bãi Ông), Bai Huong (Bãi Hương), Bai Bim (Bãi Bìm). Rent the tents of local people with the price of 150,000/tent.
What to see
Marine Museum of Cu Lao Cham (Bảo Tàng BiểnCù Lao Chàm)
The first stop when visiting Cu Lao Cham is the marine museum Cu Lao Cham. Here, you could understand more about the history, tradition, festivities, and sea produce of this island, helping you have a panoramic view of the island as well as its people.
Address: Ong Beach (Bai Ong), Cham island
Cham Ancient Well (Giếng Cổ Chăm)
Also known as Xom Cam (Xóm Cấm) Well, dating back about 200 years, Cham ancient well is located at the fork of the concrete road of Xom Cam. The structure of this well has typical features of other Cham (Chăm) wells in Hoi An. Local people ladle water in this well for the use of their daily activities.
Address: Xom Cam Village, Cham island
Hai Tang Pagoda (Chùa Hải Tạng)
Built in 1758 at the foothills of the western area of Hon Lao (Hòn Lao) island, Hai Tang (Hải Tạng) pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in Hoi An. Inside the pagoda, there is a horizontal lacquered board, parallel sentences, monumental statues and a large bell. This is where local people and traders go to pray for Buddha and wish for being blessed on the way to do their business.
Address: Hon Lao Island, Cham island
Tan Hiep Market (Tân Hiệp)
Visiting Cu Lao Cham, tourists cannot skip Tan Hiep (Tân Hiệp) market. Many people also call this as Cu Lao Cham market, located right at the dock area. There are forest and sea specialties and souvenirs sold here. Tourists often buy “muc mot nang” (mực một nắng) (dried squids) for their family and friends as a gift. In the market, you can bargain but just a little bit because sellers do not rip off so much.
Address: Cham Island Pier
Temple of Bird’s Nest Business Founders
Located in Bai Huong (Bãi Hương), Yen Ancestor Shrine was built completely in the early 19th century in order to worship the ancestors of Yen field. Every year, in 10th of March of the lunar year, local people and those people who exploit cozy net hold very solemnly in order to prepare for a new exploiting season.
In addition to Yen (Yến) island, Da Chong (Đá Chồng) beach is also an attractive destination that many tourists love to stop.
Address: Huong Beach (Bai Huong), Cham island
What to do
Camping on Cham Island
In addition to hostels and homestays, you can go camping on your own to enjoy the wild environment of this island. If yes, you should go with a group of friends and being well-prepared before camping.
In Bai Ong and Bai Huong you can use the services offered by locals. Otherwise, Bai Bim and Bai Xep are the best choices for those travelers who love enjoying open spaces and wild nature.
Sea Walk and Snorkeling
Due to the variety of aquatic habitats found in the Cham archipelago, the area has now been protected under UNESCO. There is a multitude of species that can be spotted such as eagle rays, turtles, ghost pipe fish, whale sharks, and much more. Sea trekking and snorkeling gives you the chance to observe the colorful coral reefs of Cham Island Biosphere Reserve. You can book online at here.
The Cham Islands may only be a short trip from Hoi An, but they will make you feel like you’ve travelled much further than just 18 kilometres from the mainland. You should not rush and go at least for a full day—it’s worth it. There are options catering to everyone—diving or snorkeling or just enjoying the boat trip out to explore the islands. It’s a very family-friendly excursion, and the kids will love having all the extra space and freedom to swim and run about. Whether it’s just for the day or a couple of nights in homestays or on the beach, it’s now your turn to visit this once restricted, impressive group of islands.
Tips for traveling to Cham Island
- In Cu Lao Cham, you should not use plastic bags because people here do not like it. So, before entering onto the island, you should not carry with any plastic bag.
- Prepare items for sea such as hats, flat slippers, sun glasses, sunscreen, and insect repellant…
- Wear full of personal documents for easy motorbike rental.
- When snorkeling for watching coral reefs, you should not break or bring coral into the mainland. The climate is hot, so if you move in the daytime, bring sunscreen and water.
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