Voyage Ly Son: How to get there, what to eat, what to explore…

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Ly Son is the remnant of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The island has volcanic craters, pagodas in caves, grows garlic and is home to the Hoang Sa Flotilla.

The flotilla is immortalized in the country’s history for having protected the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos four centuries ago.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The dry season in Ly Son lasts from March to August while the rainy season starts in September and continues until February.

For water fun including swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling, June to September would be the perfect time to visit Ly Son Island. It is hot, sunny and humid these months.

Between December and February, the weather is mild, warm and pleasant, favorable for the cultivation of garlic, a specialty which has given the island a brand identity and the islanders a stable income.

WHAT TO EXPLORE

Ly Son is formed by five mountains, four of which are dormant volcanic craters. Basically, it is a combination of three islands including Dao Lon (Big Island or Ly Son Island), Dao Be (Small Island, as An Binh Islet is called) and Mu Cu Islet.

On the island of Ly Son, the Thoi Loi Mountain is a good starting point. It rises from one of five dormant bowl-shaped craters formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

It is the highest mountain on Ly Son Island at 169 meters above sea level. The road up the mountain winds up in zigzags, providing a little adventure on its own, enjoyed in the comfort of electric cars, which are the most popular mode of transport to get there.

At the top of the mountain is a 20-meter-high national flag pole that overlooks the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands.

Ly Son’s ordinance is written on the main side of the pole and the bracket is painted red to match the color of the flag and a marker of Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty.

At the top of the peak is a freshwater lake which is the only source of supply for the inhabitants of the island. It holds about 30,000 cubic meters of water.

The whole island of Ly Son with its garlic fields is seen from the top of Thoi Loi mountain. Photo by Hachi8

At the foot of Thoi Loi Mountain is the Hang Pagoda (Cave).

Formed by a dormant volcano, the 3.2 meter high rock cave has a depth of 24 meters and an area of ​​480 square meters.

According to writings carved on stones in the pagoda, an official named Tran Cong Thanh was sent to guard Ly Son Island during the reign of King Le Kinh Tong (1588-1619). Here he discovered Hang Pagoda. After a century, his descendants embellished and enlarged the pagoda until it is today.

Pilgrims cross the stairs leading to the Hang Pagoda. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

The cave has an altar with statues of the Buddha – Amitabha Buddha, Tathagata Buddha and Maitreya Buddha.

Hang Pagoda has a large courtyard with a lotus lake in the center and a statue of the Goddess of Mercy looking towards the sea.

Around the courtyard are old tropical almond trees. In front of the pagoda is a well called “Heaven’s Well”. Some people believe that sipping water dripping from stalactites will refresh and rejuvenate their body and soul.

The Towards the door Voa small gate-like cliff near the sea, has one of the most unique geographical features in the world formed by the remnants of volcanic activity millions of years ago when lava met the sea and s is hardened to create a unique arch.

A group of tourists pose for photos above To Vo Gate on Ly Son Island. Photo by My Le

From To Vo Gate, a 200 meter walk through a cemetery leads to the Duke Pagoda on Gieng Tien mountain.

After climbing more than 100 steps along the mountainside to enter the pagoda, pilgrims offer prayers to the 27-meter-tall statue of Guanyin facing the ocean. Local fishermen believe that the Goddess protects them from dangers at sea. They burn incense here and pray for peace before heading out to sea.

Duc Pagoda sits at the foot of Gieng Tieng Mountain, a dormant volcano, on Ly Son Island. Photo by Bui Thanh Trung

Behind the pagoda are small caves with Buddhist statues.

Unlike Thoi Loi Mountain which has only rocks, Gieng Tien Mountain, a dormant volcano, has particularly fertile soil, similar to Bazan soil in the central highlands.

Locals use this soil and sand to fertilize their garlic fields. He is credited with giving the garlic grown in Ly Son a special flavor not found elsewhere.

Garlic and onion farming has become the main source of income for many Ly Son islanders.

From the Big Island, boats or canoes can be rented to go to the An Binh (small) islethome to pristine beaches and coral dive sites.

A Binh islet has an area of ​​less than one square kilometer and is sparsely populated. Less than 100 families live from fishing and growing garlic.

Visitors get off their boats to reach An Binh islet, about 15 minutes by boat from Ly Son. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

Previously, the islet was only accessible by hiring fishermen to take visitors on small boats from Big Island. Today, visitors can easily rent boats or canoes and get to the island in just 15 minutes. Boat tours usually depart at 8:00 a.m. and return to the Big Island at 2:30 p.m. daily with prices ranging from 50,000 VND to 60,000 VND ($2.13-2.56) per person.

On the Petit Îlot, the cave beach is famous for its turquoise waters and ideal conditions for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Corale boats sit along a beach on An Binh islet on Ly Son Island. Photo by Giang Huy

Coracle paddling and diving are popular activities among visitors. Rides cost 60,000 VND per person for a group of three or four, including rental of life jackets and goggles.

The Coracle Paddling Tour is a popular experience on An Binh Islet. Photo by Giang Huy

Over the past three years, residents of the island have begun to increase their income through tourism-related services, including homestays and other accommodations located in beautiful surroundings.

Another place of interest here is a small temple that worships Lord Nam Hai, or whales, which are believed to help fishermen avoid dangers at sea.

Unique events

A festival to commemorate the soldiers of Hoang Sa is the biggest cultural and spiritual event on Ly Son Island. It has been recognized as national intangible cultural heritage.

The traditional ceremony, celebrated for hundreds of years, honors the sailor-soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country and establishes Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.

During this festival, people clean the graves of Paracel soldiers.

The Tu Linh The boat racing festival (Four Holy Beasts), held from the fourth to the eighth day of the first lunar month, is another long-standing tradition in Ly Son.

The festival was first held in 1826, according to Ly Son residents, who add that it honors the island’s inhabitants and ancestral soldiers who fought to protect Vietnam’s national sovereignty over the archipelagos. by Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly).

The boats compete in the Tu Linh (Four Holy Beasts) festival on Ly Son Island during Lunar New Year 2022. Photo by Quang Sung

Eight boats participating in the race are decorated with the image of four sacred beasts: long (dragon), local network (Unicorn),
why (turtle) and phung (phoenix). Before the festival opens, teams usually pay homage to their specific deities. The winning team will experience the most peace and prosperity during the year, it is believed.

WHERE TO STAY

Given the boom in tourism in recent years, the island now has motels, hotels and homestays with rooms costing between 200,000 and 400,000 VND per night.

Bep’s House homestay, Athena Camping Ly Son, Cao Canh homestay or DHT Hang Cau guesthouse are popular establishments.

For luxury accommodation, Ly Son Pearl Hotel & Resort with great beach views is a good choice.

Ly Son Pearl Hotel & Resort. Photo courtesy of the hotel

Normally, visitors also tend to stay one night on An Binh islet. Some of the suggested homestays are BeEcolodge Homestay, Ly Son Bungalow, or XaLaBin, which offers sea view rooms.

BeEcolodge Homestay on An Binh islet with eco-friendly materials. Photo courtesy of host family

WHAT TO EAT

Known to many as the Garlic Island, Ly Son has unsurprisingly used the spice in several signature dishes.

Ly Son Garlic Salad is made with garlic, basil, sugar, fish sauce, green onion, morning glory, roasted peanuts and a little peanut oil . The salad is served with rice crackers.

A plate of garlic salad. Photo courtesy of Ly Son Sea Tour

Another Ly Son signature dish is seaweed salad, which also uses basil, garlic, lemon and other seasonings.

Seaweed salad is a signature dish on Ly Son Island. Photo courtesy of Ly Son Sea Tour

These salads can be found at Ly Son Night Market or several seafood restaurants elsewhere on the 10 square kilometer island.

The fried fish ball is another recommended specialty. The islanders do not mix different kinds of fish as they do elsewhere. The only fish they use is fresh redtail fusilier, which is caught off the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos. The fish is seasoned with Ly Son garlic, spices and pepper before being fried .

This dish is also served at Ly Son Night Market and food stalls around the island.

Fishcake noodle soup has become a popular breakfast on the island. Unlike other coastal tourist destinations like Nha Trang, Quy Nhon or Phu Yen, Ly Son noodle soup is made with bright red grouper fish.

A bowl of fishcake noodle soup on Ly Son Island. Photo courtesy of Ly Son Sea Tour

The restaurants run by Ms. Phuong Chau and Ms. Bich Vien are popular places to try the dish.

At most places on the island, including the Night Market, its signature dishes and other seafood preparations, including hotpots, can be enjoyed with cold beer.

HOW TO GET HERE

After taking a flight from Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City to Chu Lai Airport in Quang Nam Province, a taxi or bus takes visitors to Sa Ky Port, 42 kilometers away. From Da Nang city, a round-trip train ride to Quang Ngai costs 180,000 VND ($7.67) per person. A taxi ride is another option.

Ly Son Island is only accessible by boat from Sa Ky port. There are three round trips by speedboat every day for 300,000 VND to 350,000 VND, which takes about half an hour . ID, driver’s license or passport is required when purchasing tickets.

On the island, a motorbike can be rented from locals for 120,000 VND per day.

Ly Son is famous for its pristine blue water beaches. Photo by Shutterstock

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