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Archive for June, 2012

One word for Co To island: Gorgeous!

This should be – in my humble opinion – the best, the most rustic beach in the North of Vietnam where the water is crystal clear, tourism hasn’t been developed heavily. The island do not have power all the time so most accommodation here do not have Air-Conditioner yet. But things will change in the next year. At the moment we found only 1 place has AC and it’s not on the beach. Too bad the weather do not support us for any sunrise or sunset, but still, the view from our hotel is great!

The Best experience number 1:  Boat trip to the pristine beach on Small Co To island, don’t go where it’s only take 15 minutes to get to, we went to the side of island that took 45 minutes from Co To island. Should take the whole day or half day boat depends on how long you want to be on the beach. Here we could easily find the clam yourselves just a few centimeter down under the sand. And the boatman will have a small stove and cook it up for you. Lazy on a tiny fishing boat, eating clam that YOU found – must be a lovely rewarding feeling.

on Small Co To island, catching the clams ourselves

This is the clams we got for lunch, they are really tastier than any other same type of clams that I have eaten:

The Best experience number 2: Motorbiking on the island.

The island is small enough (if you ever been to Con Dao, it’s smaller than Con Dao island) to get around by motorbiking, if you cant drive, be at the back of someone to explore the island. The Rock Garden is worth while to visit, the stone  have amazing color and prints on it that really fascinated us. Calling a Rock Garden is a bit more than you can expect, it’s more a Rocky beach to me rather than Garden.

From where you get off the boat, turn left following the road until you see residences around with rice fields, there is a small road on the left side that you can take to the Rock Garden. We were lost at first and passed this tiny turn and it leaded us to another in progress wharf.

The Rock Garden, Co To Island

One more photo close up to the Stone, it is fascinating just looking at this.

But also don’t forget to wander around the area, behind the main part, there is a small curvy part that you can walk in for more crazy –shaped stones. Here is aslo the place for best view of Co To island: over the hill on the right side, it’s magnificient to look down at the curves and have the further view to other smaller islands. It could be a perfect pinic spot too.

The viewpoint on Co To Island down to The Rock Garden

Leaving The Rock Garden, we head south of the island go to The Light House. It’s not huge, just a simple light house. The soldiers there – depends on their mood, will ask 5,000vnd/person to go up. On a clear day it’s great photo shot above for the inland of the island. One side is beautiful rice fields and the other is beach.

Continue to explore the Beaches on Co To island itself, we pass the rice fields, reaching to Nam Ha Beach, which I found bigger waves and more developed tourist’s services. The beach is really nice but we already were spoilt by the beach on small Co To island.

Hong Van beach on the opposite side of Nam Ha Beach is big, newly developed for tourists, actually is much calmer and has some deep spot and clear water.

In general, we would recommend a 4 days – 3 nights trip since the journey from Hanoi is quite far away plus the 2 hours speedboat to get to the island. The last half an hour on boat is quite rough with big waves, so if you have seasick, you may want to take a pill in advance. Normal boat will take up to 4 hours to get from Van Don wharf to Co To island.

Accommodation: There are only a few hotels in town, including Co To Lodge, To Nam Guesthouse (which has a few AC), Co To Hotel and Green Co To. Price range is fairly affordable. Eating in the hotel’s restaurant may be a better choice cause there are not much out there. Fresh seafood is fairly cheap compare to the other destinations but I think it will change very soon.

We surely had wonderful time on Co To island and hope to come back soon. For more images of our trip to the island, please visit our Facebook Page.

For more information of the island itself, please visit our previous post on Island’s history by clicking here.

Or if you want to organize a trip to get there, we can arrange the permission, transports and accommodation for you on the island, simply email us at info@indochinavoyages.com. We are certain you will love the island as we love it. And Our suggestion: Go now before it gets too developed!

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Our Summer Destination this year is Co To Island, I am very excited since this is the off-the-beaten-path place and for the real explorers like US! I feel the excitement like those when I first came to Con Dao island (South of Vietnam).

Some brief info before the trip about Co To Island (source: wikitravel, wikipedia, we will update the real full information later after the trip):

Location

Co To island is an archipelago (50 islands) located in the Gulf of Tonkin, including a large Co To Island, a small Co islands, the island of Thanh Lam, Tran and countless islands and small island.

The main town size is 46,2 km², Population: over 4.985 (from 2009?!)

How to get there

Hanoi to Van Don: From Hanoi, transfer by road (private vehicle or bus, but recommend private vehicle because the bus can take forever to get there, and you may miss the boat from Van Don to Co To.

Van Don to Co To: Boat is the only way to get in Co To. The boat starts from Cai Rong town (Van Don – Quang Ninh Province). Boat will run through the Bai Tu Long Bay, to pass to Quan Lan Island and come to Co To island, each trip takes between 3 to 3.5 h depending on the weather.

*NOTE: Due to the military presence on the island a permit is required to stay on the island. The permit needs to be acquired in Ha Long city beforehand. If you arrive without a permit you will either be expected to pay a fine or be sent back to the mainland. (This information does not apply to Vietnamese nationals)

What to see: 

  • Van Chai beach: white sandy beach, blue sea
  • The light house: On the highest mount in Main Coto island
  • Rock Garden. 1km from town centre. Most beautiful place in main coto sign.
  • Lion Mount: on the sea. Beetween Small coto and Xoi island.

The best way to visit all these sites is renting a motorbike to stroll around.

Activities: 

Fishing, Diving, Swimming, Rock Climbing, Trekking

History:

Co To’s previous name is Chang Son (Chang Mountain) – was an resident place of fishermen in the North East area, but was invaded by the Chinese pirates many times. Before the Nguyen dynasty, some Chinese resided on the island together with the Viet.

1832, Nguyen Cong Tru – the Chief of Hai An (Hai Duong – An Quang) was granted by the Emperor to establish villages on the island. The first village’s name is Huong Hoa. A lot of resident from Quang Zhou, Hainan moved onto the island since then.

During French Colonial, Co To is an island has 5 distructs (East, South, West, North and Middle part), belong to Hai Dong , Hai Ninh Province. The French also took control of Hon Gai area and Hai Phong Wharf. November 1946, Ky Con Team from Hon Gai used Le Creyac battleship to go to Co To to make revolution but failed. Until 1955, after Geneve Decree, the French left.

Before 1978, Co To islands is the prosperous town with 6,740 people. after 1978, the Chinese returns to their mainland, on the island only have 10% population left.

From 1994, more tourist services are slowly developed on the island for locals but not yet blooming to the international travellers.

Come back soon to update…

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The Birthday Girl

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Today Indochina Voyages team celebrates Lan’s birthday.  Lan is working in IV as an accountant. Oh yes, she is sassy and persistent. I know I am a little exaggerated on the “sassy” part but Persistent she is (which drives me crazy sometimes because I will stop anything I am doing to finish up the business with her, rather than letting it for the next day). Kudos to her!

Lan joined the team earlier this year but she is doing very well. Tourism accounting can be simple yet complicated, but I don’t see it’s an obstacle for Lan at all the time she is working here. Everybody is happy with her work in the office.

And everybody love Lan’s little angel – cutie pie Lam – she is just over 15 months by now and she saved her first word “Mommy” to call Lan this morning. How wonderful it can be when your little kid call you first time “Mommy” or “Daddy” on your birthday?  (tears in my eyes!!!). And Lan is expecting the 2nd child in early October this year. Wish everything goes smoothly to her family!

Back to the party, we decided to go to Pepperonis – the popular Pizza house in Hanoi, yet it’s very common for many of you to eat pizzas, it’s a chance for us to change our taste – something that not RICE (well pizza dough is made from flour, but still, it’s not RICE). The table is full of salad, very tender ribs, big Pizzas and chips.

And cant forget the Birthday Cake, which made by .. me (please, let me two seconds to brag about myself here). Lan asked me if  I created the idea myself. Unfortunately, I am not that creative and such a newbie in bakery industry. The idea I got from Pinterest and it looks way better than this. But hey, first try not bad right?

Scrapbook – a birthday gift from Long (which I helped a bit to arrange the pictures since Long is on trip in Saigon). Lan was amazed and very happy to see her own photos with sweet words.

And IV team also gave her a small purse, hope that she will always full of money in there (means the company has LOADS of money!!!!). Mean our pay everymonth will be extremely high!!!!

We ate, drank, joked, sang birthday song, took photos and even went after for another round of coffee (thanks to Nam to pay the debt he owes the team for so long :-P).

So we are excited to look forward to another member’s birthday, to be closer to each other, like brothers & sisters-in-arms, to live, to love, to work in our little second family.

Again, happy birthday to Lan and cheers to the others!

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