Over the past year, Thanh An has become a popular destination for those who like to di phuot — travel by motorbike. A small island in Can Gio around 70km away from the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, it has a population of around 5,000 and its economy is centred on fishing and salt production.
“No, don’t bring your bike with you,” said a young girl standing next to me waiting for the boat to the island. “Thanh An is so small. You can walk.”
Leaving my bike at one of the parking lots around the dock, I found myself a comfortable spot next to the window on the boat heading to the island.
What it Has
My first impression was that Thanh An looked poor and depressing; the sizzling hot and windless day helped increase that feeling. I was standing at the dock and wondering which direction to start off in. I turned left following the long stone dyke with the ocean on one side and mangrove forest on the other. It was totally quiet until the sound of a ship’s horn broke the stillness.
One of the characteristics of the sea round Can Gio is that the water is muddy and suffused with fine silt. As there is no beach on this island for tourists to laze about on, fishing has become a popular tourist entertainment at weekends.
“You came here alone? [You] should go at weekends. It’s more fun,” said the café lady while making me a lemonade. With my tank top soaked in sweat, seated on a bench placed under the shade of a tree I looked around and tried to catch the vibe of this fishing village. A couple of kids walking home from school giggled and talked in loud voices, while a lady was checking her dried fish racks in the front yard. There were many more dried fish racks on the route heading to the heart of the island.
For Longer Trips
Thanh An is more suited to a two-day than a one-day trip, as the last boat leaves the island at 5pm. Other fun activities which require an overnight stay including visiting the salt farms on another nearby island, watching the sunset or fishing with the locals on their boats.
As the island focuses on agriculture and only got electricity a few months ago, it doesn’t have strong tourism services yet. I saw only one guesthouse when I made a loop walking around the village.
“We don’t have hotels here but you can stay with us from VND20,000 to VND30,000 per night per person,” said the seafood lady when I was having lunch at her place. I ordered one crab and 300g of shrimps that cost only VND67,000. Suddenly my energy returned and forgetting the three litres of water I had just drunk to stave off the heat, I took my first bite of the boiled shrimps. They were tender, fresh and juicy. More than worth the visit. And if two days are still not enough for you, you can get on daily boats travelling from Thanh An to Vung Tau, which cost only VND20,000 and take around two hours.
Thanh An is definitely not a place for people who are looking for crystal clear sea, white pristine beaches and fancy hotels or resorts. However, it’s a decent choice for a trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and to eat fantastic seafood.
You can either go by bus or bike to Thanh An.
By bus: from the bus station at Ben Thanh Market, get on the bus number 20 to Binh Khanh ferry, take a ferry to reach Can Gio. From Can Gio, take the bus number 90 to Tac Xuat dock, then take a boat to Thanh An
By bike: From Nguyen Tat Thanh in District 4 head to Nguyen Tan Phat, keep going straight to Binh Khanh ferry. To reach Can Gio, you have to pay VND4,500 for a ferry trip. Follow Rung Sac Highway then turn left to Duyen Hai at the end. Keep heading to Can Thanh, turn left at Dang Van Kieu and you will see Tac Xuat dock at the end of the street.