Co To island.
Co To Island appeared in front of our eyes with a skyline of two and three-storey buildings. The tour guide said life in Co To island is still not easy even though it has improved in recent years as the island got access to the national power grid.
Since 2013, hotel construction in Co To has been booming in anticipation of the surge in tourist arrivals to the island.
Coto island is among the 40 islands and islets of Coto district, Quang Ninh northeastern province. It is one of the two largest islands of the district together with Thanh Lan. Situated 60 nautical miles from the shore, Coto island boasts a long and white sandy beach named Hong Van (Red Cloud) and the other smaller one named Van Chay, located at the foot of a little mountain.
The North of Coto island faces the Vinh Thuc beach of Mong Cai city, and Cai Chien beach of Hai Ha district, both belong to Quang Ninh province while the west is next to Van Hai island and island’s south is looking to Bach Long Vi island of the neighboring city of Hai Phong.
Coto district has a total surface area of 4620 ha, of which Co To island is 2,253 ha, Thanh Lan island is 1,800 ha and other small islands making up the rest. There are about 5,000 people living in the island.
In Coto island, we met with Ms. Hong from Zone 3 of Coto township who told us about her life since setting up in the island. In 1978, Hong left her home district of Kien An in Hai phong city to settle down in Coto. Her first ten years in the island were so hard that Hong’s parents, brother and sister felt sorry for her and asked her to return. As time went by, her affection for the island has grown. Her life becomes more comfortable as she is running a grocery store. Hong decided to never leave the island and make it her second home.
Departing from Cai Rong port, Van Don district, Quang Ninh province, the ship carries 128 visitors to Co To island after 2 hours.
Visiting Coto lighthouse, we met with Nguyen Cong Giang, the head of the lighthouse keeping team and our spontaneous tour guide. Giang said that the lighthouse is 118m above the sea level with 172 steps. Summer is the high season of visits . “We are happy to receive visitors. They are our encouragement to keep working in this isolated place,” Giang told us.
Meanwhile, another lighthouse keeper named Long said he lives in Coto and takes leave to return home every six months. Four years in the island, he has not had chance to welcome the Lunar New Year with family. In spite of homesickness, Long said he is becoming fond of the island.
We was told by our driver that September 2 is usually the last peak season of the year. Then the number of arrivals diminishes. “After the summer, I work as a mason. Coto island is my second home,” he said.
Co To island welcomed President Ho Chi Minh who visited the island’s army and people on May 9th, 1961. On that occasion, President Ho Chi Minh said: “Though the island is far away from Ha Noi capital, the state and government always pay special attention to the islanders and hope you all to unite.” Co To is also the only place Ho Chi Minh agreed that his statue would be erected while being alive. Nowadays, Uncle Ho’s monument is classified by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism as a national historical and cultural monument.
Coto islanders come mainly from Van Don district, Quang Ninh province while the rest are from Nam Dinh, Thai Binh and Hai Phong province. Though coming from different places, they are all fall for the island and wish to keep the island green and prosperous.