A backpacker's treasure
Ten nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam, Hai Tac (Pirate Island) flies under the radar. Hundreds of tourists chug past this archipelago of 16 islands and islets on their way to Phu Quoc island, yet scant few foreigners have stepped onto its shores – and we’re wondering why. Getting off the beaten track is as easy as taking the cheap, daily ferry from Ha Tien on the mainland. In just over an hour you’ll be swimming in water as smooth and clear as glass, exploring deserted beaches that ring the entire island and feasting on fresh seafood before retiring to a hammock strung between palms.
Important: As of late 2016 we’ve been advised by a traveller that ferry operators in Ha Tien are not currently allowing foreigners to get on a boat to Hai Tac. Please check the situation on the ground before planning to head to the island.
Officially named Tien Hai Commune, Hai Tac’s name, which means “pirate”, originates from a colourful history. Centuries ago the archipelago was a pirate hideaway, a notoriously dangerous area for commercial boats as gangs plundered this trade route between Asia and Europe (it was marked “Ile de Pirates” on French colonial maps). Legends about buried treasure and secret maps still abound. Today you won’t find ruthless pirates and chests of gold, only fishermen and simple villages. Their treasure is the daily haul of fish and the island’s natural riches.
The largest island Hon Dac (Dac Island), which is confusingly also referred to as Tien Hai, Hon Tre, Hon Tre Lon or Hai Tac, is where most of the small population lives. The v-shaped island can be visited as a great daytrip from Ha Tien (a ferry arrives in the morning, returns back in the late afternoon), or the more adventurous can stay overnight. Tourist infrastructure here is very rudimentary so there are no guesthouses, just super basic rooms for let in people’s homes. Power shuts off at 23:00 and returns at 06:00, though a lucky few can afford generators (tip: bring a torch). There’s also not a stitch of ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,900 words.)
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