A visit to Son Dung on the way to Van Phong Bay
Since the completion of Dam Mon-Co Ma Street, linking Van Thanh Commune of Van Ninh District in central coastal province of Khanh Hoa with National Road 1A, tourists can now travel from Co Ma Hill through the ancient mangrove forest of Tuan Le to this remote Dam Mon Peninsula. The road was built to promote tourism to Van Phong Bay, and tours to the bay have already increased since it opened.
Van Phong Bay is a natural collection of seaside features. The white sandy hills and untouched colorful coral reefs with many kinds of fish at Me Beach would entice any traveler to the region. Early risers who enjoy the morning sun should drop by a small fishing village named Son Dung to learn something of the inner land.
There are many reasons to visit Son Dung. One is the boat carrying tourists to Van Phong Bay always passes natural animal-shaped stones, high cliffs with many kinds of plants and a peaceful picturesque fishing village that looks like the pictures in a story book.
The small village has a population of about 14 households with some brick houses leaning over the cliff. On the right side of the village is a wonderful beach, while the front is a white sandy beach recovered when the tide goes out. A cliff and mountain with a sandy slope provide the backdrop for the village.
There are no roads in Son Dung so people there do not have bicycles or motorbikes. The main entrance to the village skirts the beach and is often flooded with seawater. The local streets are made of sand and broken coral skeletons.
The villagers have a legend of their own. It is said that they originated from the Dang Ha ethnic group that were thrown overboard from their boats and carried in to the place on the waves. They had no clothes and used leaves to make costumes. As time passed some generations left the village for the mainland, but there were outsiders wanting to escape from life for the love of the island, so they settled here. Now the village has about 20 youngsters studying at a class held in border gate military post 358 nearby.
The Son Dung people have adapted to many occupations to support themselves, like rearing lobsters, fishing for squids and other seafood, logging, planting cashew and fruit, and now tourism, hosting travelers for a few hours when they drop by.
One feature of Son Dung that attracts tourists is exploring the freshwater on the island, which is strictly protected by the locals. It seems incredible that on an island surrounded by seawater, a local child can dig a hole of twenty centimeters and freshwater appears and fills it up.
The story of the source of freshwater originates from the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, Gia Long, who, having lost the battle with Tay Son, escaped to this place. When he and his army were in despair of losing their lives on the deserted island, he prayed to the gods and dug a small hole on the edge of the land and a miracle occurred: there was freshwater on the island.
The phenomenon has lasted and has become a vital source of survival for the locals to support themselves.
Nowadays it is an attraction for tourists and many have taken a bottle of freshwater from the island as a souvenir. The locals also set up a small temple to worship the Nguyen King who discovered the source for them.
Son Dung does not have any food stalls or restaurants, but visitors can buy seafood farmed by the locals and build a fire for an outdoor seafood barbecue. When visiting Son Dung, anchor the boat at a tree stump, walk bare foot on the smooth sandy beach to the land and have a chat with the locals. For those who like something more active, try to climb up to the forest on the sandy hill, or follow the locals on crafts to buy seafood, then stir cook or grill them on a fire and enjoy them with a drink.
(Source: SGT, URL:http://english.vietnamnet.vn/travel/2008/10/807709/)
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