Exploring a Mini Maldives in Southern Vietnam

Hon Son Island near the city of Kien Giang.

During the pandemic many travel memories came to me. In particular, I remembered a trip to Hon Son Island, Kien Giang with my friends. This place is also known by its nickname, “Miniature Maldives.”

I met Tien at a social activity program in the highlands during the mid-autumn festival last year. After the program, we met in Saigon once or twice, and every time Tien invited me to Kien Giang. Responding to her offer, I started the journey with a few close friends.

Exploring Hon Son – Kien Giang

Departing Saigon at 11 p.m., we took a bus to Rach Soi station in Rach Gia city and arrived early in the morning. Then we took the bus to the Rach Gia highspeed ferry where Tien and two other friends were waiting. We greeted each other and boarded the ferry to Hon Son.

Figure 1: Traveling by high-speed ferry – Photo: Tho Tran

We arrived around 7 a.m. after an hour-long ferry ride. After the required health screening, we rent the motorbikes and began to explore the island.

Figure 2: Hon Son seen from the rock beach. Photo: Tho Tran

Hon Son Island is 11.5 square kilometers in size with undulating peaks bordered by blue water and sandy beaches. Riding our rented motorbikes around the island, we took in the wild beauty of the blue sea, white sand and primeval forest. With a coastline in the shape of a crescent, Hon Son Island has many small beaches, including Bang Beach, Nha Beach, Gieng Beach, Bac Beach, and Thien Tue Beach.

Where to stay

Thanks to Tien, a local of the Island, we had a place to stay. It was a small, clean, delicately decorated homestay located at the wharf called Thương’s house. In addition to accommodation, it had a large yard for parties or barbecues. The owner enthusiastically told us about locations on the island to visit and answered our questions.

Picture 3: View from the Homestay overlooking the sea – Photo: Tho Tran

Besides Thuong’s House there were many airy guesthouses and homestays with glass doors that overlooked the sea. Room prices ranged from 150,000 to 300,000 đồng per person per night.

What to do?

According to the recommendation from the homestay owner, we visited Bai Bang, considered the island’s most beautiful white sandy beach. It stretches over a long coastline with clear water and multiple bays, inlets and rocky outcrops that are equally beautiful and suitable for swimming and taking pictures.  There were a lot of tall coconut trees, and some grew horizontally towards the sea. We sat down at a rest stop to have a drink and gazed out at the sea. Swinging the hammock between rows of green coconut trees, we listened to the murmuring symphony of the waves and wind. I suddenly fell in love with a place I had been unfamiliar with just a few hours prior.

Coconut shop in Bai Bang - Photo: travelsgcc.com
Coconut shop in Bai Bang – Photo: travelsgcc.com

According to Uncle Lam, the owner of the drinks shop  there are seven mountains on the island. The most famous are Ma Thien Lanh and Ong Rong. Ma Thien Lanh is known for its grandeur and poetic beauty. It is about 450 meters high covered by verdant trees. The scenery here was still wild and mysterious, and is associated with bizarre and fanciful myths. Popular with tourists, the mountain can be easily climbed. In contrast, Ong Rong is still quite unspoiled. There is a low and tricky road to the mountain and only locals know an easier way.

Conquering Ma Thien Lanh peak - Photo: nucuoimekong.com
Conquering Ma Thien Lanh peak – Photo: nucuoimekong.com

Instead of climbing Ma Thien Lanh as originally planned, we decided to change direction and headed to Ong Rong. Led by the owner of our homestay, we climbed in the afternoon. Crossing fields and entering the forest, we eventually found our way to the top of the mountain.

The tree on the way to the top of Ong Rong mountain - Photo: Tho Tran
The tree on the way to the top of Ong Rong mountain – Photo: Tho Tran

Although we set off at noon the forest was cool. The beautiful, wild scenery on both sides of the road helped our group enjoy the trip. It was not an easy path and we had to avoid thorns and climb over big rocks. All fatigue and difficulties disappeared when we reached the top and looked down at the rocky beach and the vast blue sea. People named the mountain Ong Rong due to a very large tree at the peak that curls up and protrudes high into the sky in the shape of a dragon.

After taking photos, we returned to our homestay, watched the sun set by the jetty and bought some seafood to prepare a dinner together.

Sunset by the jetty at Hon Son - Photo: Tho Tran
Sunset by the jetty at Hon Son – Photo: Tho Tran

What to eat?

If you visit Hon Son, you must try the famous Tam Ca garlic steamed chicken. It is made from free-run chickens so the meat is tasty, firm and tougher than chickens raised differently. The restaurant’s savoury recipe, along with the aroma and taste of garlic, greatly enhanced the flavor of the dish. The price was 160,000 VND/kg.

Tasty Tam Ca garlic steamed chicken - Photo: Anh Linh
Tasty Tam Ca garlic steamed chicken – Photo: Anh Linh

Seafood is also abundant here. The locals sell it on the beaches. It is fresh, delicious and includes stone crabs, squid, shrimp, pearl-eyed snails, and oysters. The price is very affordable, ranging from 40,000 VND – 200,000 VND depending on the variety.

Delicious seafood on the island - Photo:
Delicious seafood on the island – Photo:

If you stay at Thuong’s House, you must try the owner’s yummy seafood fried noodles and fragrant grilled squid.

Hon Son travel experience

How to travel on the island?

To get around, you can rent a motorbike. The cost ranges from 170,000 -250,000 per day and the bike’s tank is filled with gas so you don’t have to worry about finding a gas station.

How to book boat tickets?

Every day, there are two boats arrive at Hon Son in the early morning (from 6am – 7:30am). Buy your tickets online in advance to guarantee your place on board Tickets are 150,000 VND/ride.

The best time to visit

The ideal time to travel to Hon Son is from May to December because squid, shrimp, and crab are in season, delicious and cheap. Make sure you check the weather ahead of time to avoid rough seas and storms.

What to buy?

There are almost no souvenirs on the island, people mainly buy fresh seafood. However, you can still buy some specialties such as wine from forest fruits, dried seafood, fish sauce as gifts. The famous Hon Son fish sauce would be a nice gift for your loved ones when you return after your trip.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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