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Cu Lao Cham (Cham Islands) Travel Guides

Cu Lao Cham is an island cluster in Tan Hiep island commune, Hoi An city, Quang Nam province, 15km from the Cua Dai beach. This area has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve in 2009. Cu Lao Cham attracts lots of visitors because of its pristine beauty of the beaches, and good tourism services. If you have the opportunity to visit Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, do not forget to arrange 1 day to go to Cu Lao Cham.

The following article will provide full information and travel experience to Cu Lao Cham.

1. How to get to Cu Lao Cham

From Hoi An you have 2 options of vehicles to get to Cu Lao Cham, including canoes and wooden boats.
If you choose the canoe, it will only take about 20 minutes but the price is high – 150,000 VND/ person. This way is suitable for those who love adventure and thrills. Canoes offer many departures a day from Cua Dai wharf. Tickets can be purchased from the pier or from travel agents in the old town.

If you choose a wooden boat, it will be more economical but slower and still feels adventurous at sea. However, if you are a seasick person, you should go by canoe. The wooden boats depart from Bach Dang wharf at 8 am (you should come earlier to guarantee a seat). The fares are 50,000 VND/Vietnamese, 100,000 VND/foreigner. If you bring a motorbike through the island, there will be an extra fee of 30,000 VND/bike. Afternoon boats depart from Cu Lao Cham pier at 13h. Wooden boats from Cua Dai wharf only take 30,000 VND, the return trip is also from Cu Lao Cham pier but at 11 pm.

2. Accommodation in Cu Lao Cham

Cu Lao Cham Island does not have hotels or resorts but homestay-style motels but it is very interesting for anyone who wants to explore this beautiful island. The price of these homestay services ranges from 50,000 -100,000 VND/person or 150,000/room for 2 people. The homestays are mainly concentrated in Bai Ong, Bai Lang, and Bai Huong.

You can contact the below address:

Tam Hien Guesthouse
Address: Bai Ong
Phone: 0120 618 3516

Bich Van Guesthouse
Address: Bai Ong
Phone: 01695007779

Huynh Van Tri Guesthouse
Address: Bai Lang
Phone: 0974994189

Thu Trang Guesthouse
Address: Bai Lang
Phone: 0985237941

Ms. Lan
Address: Bai Huong
Phone: 0510 3863822

Ms. Hiep
Address: Bai Huong
Phone: 0986651448
This homestay not only provides overnight service but also provides you with a full range of dining, laundry, car rental, guides, boat rentals, coral reefs … The people here are gentle, friendly, and enthusiastic tourist support.

3. What to see in Cu Lao Cham

Cu Lao Cham Marine Museum

The first stop when the boat arrives at Cu Lao Cham pier is the Cu Lao Cham marine museum. This is a place where you can learn the history, traditions, festivals, sea products, etc. of this island, giving you a panoramic view of the island and its people.

The ancient Cham well

Also known as Gieng Xom Cam, dating back about 200 years ago, is located at the junction of a concrete road in the residential area of ​​Cam hamlet, 500m northeast of the Tien Sa Huynh Bai Ong relic and 300m to the Southwest of Bai Lang archeological site. The structure of the well is characterized like many other Cham wells in Hoi An such as a round tubular and wall, square base, at each corner there is a square pillar, the center of the well is built from brick in the style of “towel ring”. People in Bai Lang village said that Gom Xom Cam is an abundant source of water for the locals. A special feature is that the water of this well never runs out, even in the driest season.

Hai Tang Pagoda

Hai Tang Pagoda is a religious architectural work worshiping Buddha and the holy spirit to meet the religious needs of the fishermen on Cu Lao Cham island and for traders to visit the worshiping ceremony with the wish. It was built in the 19th Canh Hung year (1758) at a distance of about 200m from the current position to the North. After heavily damaged by a typhoon, the pagoda was moved to its current location and rebuilt with more space to facilitate the worshipers.

The pagoda’s construction is associated with the legend of the pillars made from the North and carried by ship to the South. However, when it got to Cu Lao Cham, it was dark and the ship had to anchor. The next day, the ship went on but the sea suddenly got rough so that it was unable to sail. After someone in the group went to the island to pray, they knew that these pillars must stay to build a pagoda on the island and cannot be taken away. Therefore, the pagoda was built and named Hai Tang, Hai is the sea, and the Tang is the Sutta, meaning that the Pagoda is a vast gathering of sutras like the sea.

Tan Hiep Market

Coming to Cu Lao Cham, tourists should not miss the Tan Hiep market. Many people call it Cu Lao Cham Market, located right in the dock area. The market sells forest and sea specialties, and souvenirs. Visitors often buy one-sun-dried squids here as a gift for friends and relatives. You can bargain in the market but often only a little bit because the seller does negotiate much.

Than Yen Sao Shrine

Located in Bai Huong, the shrine was built in the early 19th century to worship the ancestors of the swallow nest profession and the patrons. Every year on March 10 in Lunar calendar, residents, and swallow nest farmers organize a great ceremony to prepare for the new harvest. On the altar, in addition to the ancestors of the profession of swallow nest are gods related to the river and the sea.

4. What to do in Cu Lao Cham

Coming to Cu Lao Cham, swimming is something that you cannot ignore. The island has 7 beaches with different characteristics, so you can choose the most suitable beach to swim, and have fun. In addition to the beaches, there are lots of other activities that you may want to return.

Sea Trek – Feed the fish yourself and watch the corals at the bottom of the sea

This service has been available in Cu Lao Cham since the end of 2016, but not until now it becomes very popular. With American equipment, you can wander around the ocean floor without knowing how to swim or dive.

There are 2 ways to experience Seatrek for you to choose:
– If you are already on Cu Lao Cham then you can contact Sea Trek, they will pick you up to the  Sea trekking area, the price will be 850,000VND/adult.
– The most convenient way is that you buy a full tour package, including shuttle service from your hotel, canoe transfer, dining, visiting the island, swimming and watching corals, and of course Sea trekking. The price for a full tour package is 1,350,000 VND/adult. The price is a bit high but it’s worth the money. If you want to experience this tour, you can refer to the details on the Sea Trek Vietnam website.

Diving to watch coral

Most tours to Cu Lao Cham have coral diving activities. You can buy a ticket at the pier or ask the motel. Ticket price is 150,000/person with full equipment, including life jackets,  a boat taking you to the diving area, and a guide. However, recently with the increasing number of tourists to Cu Lao Cham, the pressure of exploitation on the coral reefs is huge, causing the slow recovery of the coral reefs and serious impacts on the ecosystem ​​at Cu Lao Cham. So if you join the scuba diving to watch the coral, absolutely do not break the coral or bring it back to the mainland.

Visit the islands by boat

There are 7 other islands around Hon Lao, so if you want you can rent a boat to go to these islands.
If renting a full package from the morning to the afternoon, the price is 600,000/boat, each boat can carry about 10 people. If you are in a small group, you can invite a few more persons joining your group to save the money.

At this price, the boat owner will take you to visit Hon Ba, Yen Island, coral reefs (without diving gear rental), and swim in Bai Bim.

If you just want to visit Yen Island, the price is about 300,000/boat. Cu Lao Cham is the only place in Quang Nam where the swallows live.

Rent a motorbike to explore the whole island

Cu Lao Cham is endowed with a rich forest ecosystem, which will be a pity if you do not spend time driving to the furthest point of this beautiful island. The small road has many difficult bumpers, so it requires a very strong riding skill. The interesting thing about riding a motorbike is that you can stop on the road to enjoy deserted white beaches and view the island from above. In addition, you can go to Cu Lao Cham mountain to admire the whole island from above. In the clear sunshine, you can even see the mainland.

5. What to eat in Cu Lao Cham

One-sun-dried squid

Cuttlefishes on the island are quite diverse in types but one-sun-dried squid is only made from squid. People choose the squid just brought from the sea, still fresh, exposed in only once sunshine. This is also the item that tourists often buy as gifts for friends and relatives. But enjoying this dish at the beach is still better than at home.

Rock crab

Rock crab is also known as red crab because of its impressive color. This is called a “vegetarian” crab because it eats grasses on the mountain. Rock crabs are only the size of a fist, but strong, fast and very difficult to catch. A local who can catch 4 out of 10 crabs, is considered very good. This dish has an attractive aroma, crab meat is tougher than the sea crab and has no fishy odor. Hence, rock crab has become the “star” of Cu Lao Cham cuisine.

“Vu nang” snails

You should visit Cu Lao Cham on the full moon day to enjoy the dishes made from “vu nang” snail. It is because, on the full moon days, the snails appeared more than usual. “Vu nang” snail is a unique snail with a conical-shaped chop, at the top, there is a small knob that looks like a breast of a pubescent girl. The outer shell is dark gray, the inside is glittering with nacre. Because of the small number of “vu nang” snails, the professionals have to submerge in water for hours, using lights to look into the rocks, using a sharp knife to separate each snail. “Vu nang” snail can be used for many dishes such as boiled, baked, salad.

Abalone

Abalone is a very rare species, has many names such as “cuu khong” snail, sea ear, et.c, so visitors love to enjoy abalone when they come to Cu Lao Cham. This snail attaches to the reefs of the coral sea area with high salinity and large waves, making it difficult to detect and difficult to separate them from the rocks. Abalone can cook for dishes such as boiled with ginger, steamed, fried, et.c Each dish is very strange compared to other types of seafood.

Jungle vegetable

Cu Lao Cham forest vegetables are composed of 16 kinds of forest trees bearing the flavor of herbal medicine, growing wildly in the foothills. The beginning of the summer is the harvest of wild vegetables on the island. The simplest and the most flavorful when enjoying is boiled vegetables, dipped with garlic and chili sauce.

Sticky rice dumplings

Sticky rice dumplings can be found in various places, but this dish in Cu Lao Cham still has its own distinctive characteristics. Previously, the locals on the island only made this dish during the festivals, but today it is available year-round to serve the needs of tourists.

6. Suggested itinerary to visit Cu Lao Cham

Usually, tourists visit Cu Lao Cham for 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights, so it depends on your time to arrange a travel plan here.

2 days/1night schedule

Day 1:
7:00 – Arrive at Bach Dang wharf
10:00 – Hotel/guesthouse check-in
10:30 – Rent a boat to visit Yen Island
12:00 – Lunch at the guest house
14:00 – Visit the relics in Xom Cam and Bai Lang areas
16:00 – Snorkeling and swimming
19:00 – Dinner

Day 2:
7:00 – Rent a motorbike to go around the island
10:00 – Check out and return to the pier to return to Hoi An

3 days/2 nights schedule

Day 1:
7:00 – Arrive at Bach Dang wharf
10:00 – Check-in, rest, lunch at the motel
14:00 – Rent a boat to go around the islands, snorkeling, visiting Yen Island
19:00 – Dinner

Day 2:
7:00 – Go around the island by motorbike
10:00 – Visit Bai Huong to buy seafood and lunch on the beach
14:00 – Visit the relics in Xom Cam and Bai Lang areas
17:00 – Swim and enjoy the beach BBQ

Day 3:
8:00 – Go to Tan Hiep market, buy things as gifts for family friends
10:00 – Back to the pier to return to Hoi An.

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