Photo: Late light on Hon Son.

Introduction

Our rating:

Rugged, lush, wildly beautiful – these words pop into your head as you stand atop the pass that cuts through the middle of Hon Son Island. The scope and details of the vista take a moment to sink in: your eye will follow as a carpet of thick impenetrable greenery sweeps down to bright blue water and a coast strewn with dramatic boulders and languid palms. As if this description was not fantastical enough, Hon Son is connected to the mainland by a one and a half hour fast ferry, yet few foreigners venture there.


The little known Nam Du archipelago (pronounced “nam yu”) is 21 islands and islets off the southwest coast of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand. A few of the islands, like Nam Du, are large enough to be inhabited, colourful fishing boats and gritty fishing villages clustered along its crust, while tiny islets like hon Do Nai are no more than a bump of rock drowning in ocean. Three of the islands – Hon Tre, Hon Son and Nam Du – are connected to provincial capital city Rach Gia by Superdong fast ferry. Hon Son, officially called Lai Son commune and sometimes known as Son Rai or Rai Island, is the second ferry stop.

Damn. Photo taken in or around Hon Son, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Damn. Photo: Cindy Fan

Word has started to spread in Vietnamese media and the islands do attract a handful of domestic tourists but the majority head to Nam Du, part of the cluster of 19 islands another 40 minutes further. Ironically, Hon Son is closer to the mainland yet at times it feels even more low-key than Nam Du. We highly recommend you visit both.

Like Nam Du, Hon Son is relatively poor and developing; the primary industry is fishing, tourism is in its infancy. But good news for independent travellers, recently a few purpose built guesthouses have appeared, including two on the water.

Unspoilt. Photo taken in or around Hon Son, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Unspoilt. Photo: Cindy Fan

There’s nothing to do per se except pig out on fresh seafood, drink in the scenery, breathe in fresh air, frolic at bai Ban and bai Bo beach, watch fishermen unload the catch and do laps around the island on two wheels – although Google Maps doesn’t work here, don’t worry, stick to the road and it’s impossible to get lost. A single road rings around the entire island while a way runs through the middle, connecting north with south.

There are very few formal eating options on the island except for a couple noodle soup and coffee stands at the pier. With some notice your guesthouse can prepare meals and no doubt fresh seafood will be on your plate: crabs, squid, scallops, mussels, clams, shrimp, fish and urchins. Hopefully you love seafood, otherwise you’ll be subsisting on Choco Pies, coconuts and rice.




Orientation There are two primary clusters of civilisation on the island, one at the pier on the southern coast and the other at the southwestern edge, where the land tapers into a short tail. A coastal road rings around the entire island while a mountain pass runs through the middle, connecting Bai Bo (Bo Beach) with the pier.

Peak hour. Photo taken in or around Hon Son, Vietnam by Cindy Fan.

Peak hour. Photo: Cindy Fan

There is no ATM on the island. Stock up on dong on the mainland before travelling.

There is a telecom tower on the island but 3G service is still intermittent. WiFi is a rarity. Electricity is only available during certain hours of the day and blackouts occur. Having your own torch will come in handy. A lucky few including some guesthouses have generators.

Arrive to the pier 30 minutes before your ferry’s scheduled departure time.

Nam Du islands share the same weather as the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc. Dry season lasts from October to April while rainy season lasts from around May to September. Expect the ferry to be cancelled during high wind conditions.

While we felt safe on the island and found everyone to be friendly, remember that you are very well off compared to most. It’s prudent to secure your valuables.

Many thanks to Travelfish reader Peter Kromar who first alerted us to these islands, you can read about his experience on Hon Son here. Thanks Peter!

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Hon Son.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Hon Son.
 Read up on how to get to Hon Son, or book your transport online with Baolau.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Hon Son? Please read this.





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