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Wildly romantic / Co To Islands

posted Nov 30, 2011, 7:30 PM by Dong Travel Ticketing   [ updated Nov 30, 2011, 8:00 PM by Mickey Dong Hoang Thinh ]

Travelers in search of solitude,nature and adventure are discovering Vietnam’s Co To Islands.

Even when the East Sea is enranged by hurri-canes and tropical storms,the Co To Islands remain a serene oasis that are hardly ever cut off from the mainland for more than three days.Lying just several hours by car and express-boat from Ha Long,these islands gained modest fame from the superb memoir of the writer Nguyen Tuan:”Co To Islands”.Who dreams of becoming the next Robinson Crusoe?

Standing on Vang Chai Beach and facing the vast sea,I recall Nguyen Tuan and his subtle description of the beauty of the sea around Co To:”The charming, changeable blue-green color of the sea tantalizes our lim-ited vocabulary.What is the sea like?As green as a baby banana?A ripening banana?Or the green cốm(young rice) made in Vong village in the autumn?The water around Co To is a mix of various shades of green and blue.At times,it is as blue as the attire of a well-man-nered lad wandering in a spring festival.Yet overlapping waves bring another color to the surface…”

Even on bleak days,the cycle of changing col-ors remains unchanged.Fine beaches wrap the islands,since Co To is not a single island but an archipelago of 50 islands of different sizes.The locals are concentrated on Major Co To and Thanh Lan.Smaller islands such as Minor Co To,Goat Islet and Tran Isle are home to a few military bases and the houses of fishermen.A trip through those unspoiled islands is my favorite part of a journey to Co To,as we slowly penetrate the quite,secret realm of heaven and the sea without any trace of humans.

A boat,a bottle of water,rations,a broad hat and a camera are enough for a marine journey to Co To.It comes as no surprise that young backpackers are flocking to Co To so as to return to Mother nature,while couples choose Co To’s unique landscape as a backdrop for their stylish wedding photos.From steeply rising cliffs,splendid sandy beaches and the deep blue sea to mysterious rocks piled upon each other,the Co To archipelago boasts some of the most unusual terrain to be found in this country.

 From a cliff that stands 70 meters above sea level,the sight of enraged waves clashing against the cliff and the blue water’s surface stretching beyond the ho-rizon fills me with admiration for the brave youngsters who are trying to climb the rocks.The steep terrain of Mouse Tip resembles that of the Grand Canyon in the United States.Lying just a few hours by boat from Ha Long,there is a complete absence of luxury cruise boats in this area.Here,the skyline is only broken by fishermen’s wooden canoes.On Major CoTo Island,the glam- orous restaurant and fancy hotels found in most tourist sites can hardly be seen,partly becauses Co To still lacks a proper electricity network.Isolation has kept this ar-chipelago from the greedy,roaming eyes of professional tour organizers.

However,a lack of modern facilities does not mean a lack of romanticism in daily life at Co To.Outdoor barbecues held by small hotels leave visitors astonished.There are napkins,crystal glasses,fountains of wine and champagne and lots of grilled seafood.Sitting by the cliff,seeing the pale moon rise over the faint sunset and hearing the cheerful cries of barefoot kids resound across the sea are brilliant experiences.When darkness gently falls on Co To,few people care about the weak electricity or the basic facilities,since fresh breezes and the quiet atmosphere soothe the burdened minds of city-dwellers.

People’s livelihoods in this small town depend on the seasonal winds.Fishermen from throughout the is-lands love taking a rest to chat about their catch.They collect and process various marine creatures,from squid,to jellyfish to sea cucumbers.The sea has fed villagers here for centuries.Now,they are focusing on building new restaurants and hotels to welcome new waves of tourists to Co To in the near future.

Apart from merely bathing and enjoying seafood,young visitors come to Co To to dsicover their home-land and try new hobbies,such as camping on deserted beaches,snorkeling through coral reefs,rock climbing,or accompanying fishermen to catch squid.

These experiences bring modern people closer to the fictional life that Robinson Crusoe lived centuries ago.Here,lovers of the wilderness can feel truly satisfied.

Getting there:To reach the Co To islands,tourists in Hanoi can travel by car,motorbike or bus from My Dinh to Cua Ong,then take a taxi to Cai Rong – Van Don Port to catch the express boat to Co To. 

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