KIEN GIANG, VIETNAM - In my memories of childhood, every time I visited the beach in summer I wondered what lay beyond the horizon, and if I could walk there to discover the mystery.
Of course, the idea of "walking" through the sea sounds ridiculous and hilarious, and yet, this was what I experienced recently. This pristine, wild coastal area in the south, untouched by humans, where I could actually stand with my feet in the water. It was truly a paradise for an introvert like me.
Called the "Hạ Long Bay" of the south, Ba Lụa Archipelago is located in the Kien Luong commune, of the Kien Giang province.
Ba Lua Archipelago consists of over 40 islands, only 10 of which are inhabited by humans. All the islands are named after their shapes such as Hon De, Hon Heo and Hon Ngang, among others. The most beautiful ones are the three islands which form a Hon Dam triangle. These are Hon Dam Duoc, Hon Dam Duong, and Hon Dam Gieng. Behind the history of these three islands are many interesting tales.
We were told that during the French colonial period, a high-ranking French officer usually took his wife (often addressed by the locals as Ba Dam) and children to the islands by helicopter to enjoy the peaceful scenery there. Another explanation is that these three islands form a triangle, which resembles a dress (Dam in Vietnamese), so the locals add the word "dam" to the names of the islands.
One of the most exciting experiences throughout the whole trip was our walk through the water from Hon Dam Duoc to Hon Dam Duong. The water level here was not above one’s back, even lower when the tide receded.
It was early afternoon when my group started its walk. The 300-metre distance with the crystal blue water surface gave rise to a little fear, yet lots of excitement and curiosity because I had never experienced anything such as this before. Noticing the fear and hesitation of inexperienced tourists such as me, Pham Van Muc, and Hon Dam Duoc, the owner, advised me, “Step on the whitish spots. That is the sea floor with the sand layer and the little pebbles.”
Although Muc led the group and kept a close eye on us, it was not easy to get rid of the fear because we had to get through the mass of sea kelp. Treading through the water, our feet played with the floating sea kelp in excitement and in the fear of slipping.
“Oh, goodness, it is over. I am lucky not to be bitten by any creature,” my friend Nguyen Quang Minh said with joy as soon he took the first step on Hon Dam Duong.
Unlike Hon Dam Duoc which has a shoreline full of pebbles, Hon Dam Duong possesses a flat, fine sandy beach that is taken care of. Since 2006, Hon Dam Duong also has a helipad on it. After the walk under the sun, we could not help dipping our body in the cool crystal clear water to release all the heat.
“Walking through the water and going for a swim at this clean pristine beach? What a fun trip!” Tran Ha Trang, my company for the trip shared with a giggle.
As it was dusk and the sky changed into a majestic pink hue, we continued the walk through the water to visit Hon Dam Gieng. We observed with our eyes hundreds of fishing vessels being moored to the wharfs around the island. Some were still out, floating amid the vast water body. Everything became so lively through our own eyes.
“I have never stood in front of the sea and seen such a peaceful scenery,” Trang exclaimed.
Hon Dam Gieng welcomed us with its wonderful seafood dishes. We were ravenous after this long walk through the water to get to this island around dinner time. The seafood was fresh, tasty, finely seasoned and well cooked. The most delicious dish was the shallot-oil grilled sea urchin and lemonfish hotpot.
Sea urchins here were grilled minimally with the shallot oil, topped with mustard and pepper sprinkled on top, so that its sweetness, succulence and buttery texture were preserved. The lemonfish hotpot is the delicacy of Ba Lua Archipelago, famous for its natural sweetness, straw mushroom, tomato, onion and taro. Fresh rice noodles and raw herbs made up the final touches to the perfect dish.
“So delicious! The fish is white, sweet, still firm but not chewy, and comes with the thick fatty skin yet not fishy,” my companion Minh, a long-time foodie, said sharing his thoughts.
Satiating our appetite, we all took time to relish the delicious food we had and enjoyed the trip to the fullest.
So, if you have time on your hands, don’t hesitate to spend your two-day weekend here. I can guarantee you that Ba Lua Archipelago is one of the best travelling experiences that Kien Giang Province can offer.