Located 80 kilometres from the mainland, Quang Ninh province’s Co To island, a rough pearl in the Gulf of Tonkin with turquoise sea and tranquil beaches, has grown in popularity among domestic and international visitors.
Co To island is a rough pearl in the Gulf of Tonkin. (Photo: baoquangninh.com.vn)
The island district comprises Co To Lon (large Co To island), Co To Be (small Co To island) and 15 smaller islands. Besides enchanting beaches, the island has natural forests, lighthouses, parks, wharves, fishing villages, bays and a rock garden.
From Cai Rong port in Van Don district, another island district of Quang Ninh province, travellers can take high-speed boat trips that take one hour and half to cover the distance.
The port on Cai Bau island also offers faster boats which can travel to the island in just 45 minutes, with spectacular views along the way.
Since connecting to the national grid at the end of 2013, Co To Lon, the largest island in the archipelago, has seen rapid tourism infrastructure growth, giving a facelift to Co To town on the island, with modern hotels and more eateries and cafes.
To navigate Co To Lon, tourists can hire an electric vehicle with a tour guide or a motorbike to explore the island. Luckily, Co To Lon is small enough to explore in one day.
For those who love to swim or relax on beaches, Co To Lon has plenty. Beaches are on all sides of the island and some small accommodation services have popped up on the beaches.
There is a small lighthouse to visit as well. It is located atop a mountain, 70m above sea level, in Co To Lon and can be accessed via a road through the pine jungle.
Riding a motorbike around Co To Lon is the best way to explore and see the daily activities of island natives.
The peaceful feeling around the island is unique, particularly for those coming from big cities.
Visitors to the island should not miss nearby islands, which are more wild, pristine and off-the-beaten-track by taking boat trips with locals.
After exploring, it is ideal to return to the town to enjoy coffee or drinks and find a restaurant for seafood. Because Co To Lon is little known among foreigners, most tourism services from hotels to restaurants are typically Vietnamese but the quality is good at reasonable prices.
Since tourism is the spearhead economy of the island district, changes have made to the island and it has emerged as a new tourist attraction.
Last year, the island welcomed 300,000 visitors, including 676 foreigners and pocketed 400 billion VND (17.6 million USD) from tourism revenue. Meanwhile, in the first nine months of this year alone, some 250,000 travellers chose Co To to spend their holiday, including more than 1,000 foreign holidaymakers.
The result was spurred by a provincial decision to recognise Co To island as a local tourism site, which allows foreign tourists who legally reside in Vietnam to visit the island without getting permission from local authorities.
The island district has worked to meet demand from visitors by organising three training courses on sustainable tourism, homestay and standards of accommodation, five vocational training courses for rural labourers and three English training courses for 150 labourers.
Currently, Co To island houses more 300 accommodation buildings with more than 2,500 rooms. Meanwhile, upgrades have been made to water transport system with the operation of 26 high speed boats, each of which can make four trips per day.
Information on weather, a tourism hot line, socio-economic development of the island, policies and regulations will be provided free of charge via text message for local people, tourism household businesses and visitors.-VNA