Long Son may not be familiar to many of you, although it isn’t located far from Vung Tau. It’s an island lying 100km away from Ho Chi Minh City and is noted for its oyster farms and floating villages.
The island still retains its natural beauty and untouched landscapes. Long Son is 92km2 of which 54km2 is mainland and the rest is saline soil, swamp and mangrove. The people are friendly and hospitable and make a living from fishing, salt fields and tourism.
Nha Lon Long Son
Nha Lon Long Son (Long Son’s Big House) is perhaps the only man-made structure on the island worth visiting. It’s also called Den Ong Tran (Mr. Tran's Temple) and is a complex of old architecture made from red roof bricks and rare woods. This two-hectare area includes a temple, a hall, a school, a market, an old house and Mr. Tran’s tomb.
In 1900, Mr. Tran, aka Le Van Muu, arrived from Ha Tien with 20 family members by boat. He decided to settle down and spread his own religious teachings on the island. In 1910, he started the construction of the complex and finished it in 1929. The complex has been designated a national cultural and historical relic since 1991.
According to the old lady who sells drinks in the alley just in front of the main entrance, the best times to visit Nha Lon Long Son are the anniversary of Mr. Tran’s death (Feb. 20 in the lunar calendar) and the double ninth festival (Sep. 9 in the lunar calendar) as there are celebrations with a lot of visitors, particularly from the southeast and the Mekong Delta.
From Nha Lon Long Son, a couple of roads take you round the island: the buildings and the countryside look like they would have done 20 or 30 years ago. One option is to take the main road towards Long Son floating village. What started as a few families providing a fishing service to tourists, gradually expanded into a large village with floating seafood restaurants. All seafood is caught live and cooked immediately for freshness.
Other floating villages are located at Ba Nanh and Cha Va Bridge, the recently built roadway that now connects Long Son with the island next door, Go Gang. Head over the bridge and you’ll find yourself driving through cleared areas of mangrove on the back road to Vung Tau. An alternative is to take a boat to the bay opposite Vung Tau. Here you can see the peninsular, the two mountains and the city from a distance. The cost depends on how long and far the trip is.
Long Son is not an obvious first choice as a travel destination, but makes an interesting diversion for anyone heading to and from Vung Tau.
Take Highway 51 towards Vung Tau either from the roundabout junction just south of Bien Hoa with Highway 1 or via the Cat Lai back route that takes you through Nhon Trach. Just before you reach Ba Ria, there is a signpost and a turning on the right to Long Son Island. The trip from Saigon takes between 90 minutes and two hours.
Photos by Vu Ha Kim Vy