A colleague of mine recently asked me to help them plan a trip to Vietnam…. Just the thought of the country that used to be top of my ‘to go’ list thrilled me with excitement. So I immediately started writing everything I could remember… Wow how quickly the memories flooded back… Let’s just say Lin was mightily overwhelmed with the information contained in that single email blast, and we met up later that day to share some stories… She is now booked on a 2 week holiday to Vietnam in the summer.
Vietnam was one of the countries that thrilled me as a kid, mainly due to all of the Hollywood films I wasn’t allowed to watch, such as Platoon, Apocalypse Now, The Killing Fields, Full Metal Jacket, to name a few… not the type of films you would think of when promoting a country. However I loved the beauty of the scenery these films demonstrated, I loved the idea that people still lived in rural locations in the jungle, it just all seemed very alien to a young 24 year old. I mean I had seen poverty before but that wasn’t really what this was about, something inside of me just wanted to go… and since I was already booked to travel China I thought why not.
So in 2005 I booked a 14 day tour of the country stopping off in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) for the huge price of £370 now £885 as of today’s costs! Shocking! This story revolves around a hidden gem called Whale Island, which still even with the expansion of Vietnamese Tourism, I do not hear much about.
Whale Island is a very small Island (shaped like a Whale!) about 100km from the city of Nha Trang it’s a small island with one resort in the South China Sea. It is a complete gem, quiet and beautiful, with just a few huts dotted along a white sand beach. The sea during the daylight hours glimmers green and blue, and at night it is even more special as the moonlight gleams off the tides. I remember thinking it was the most tranquil and beautiful place I had been too. This place is not for everyone, but after a 10 day backpacking tour of the northern country, a few days not hauling my backpack around was a dream come true! The only activities available were snorkeling, swimming, and generally lazing around – Perfect! I was also privileged enough to have a whole sleeping hut to myself, with the only visitor being a tiny Gecko late at night.
I will always remember this island not just for its beauty but also it was the first place I ever went night swimming. Living in the UK I am sure you can appreciate that our waters are not very warm even in the height of summer, therefore even the thought of a dip in the English Channel at 2am in the morning was horrifying. However here in the moment and after a few drinks (of course), the idea of jumping into the lagoon like sea just seemed right. The water was warm and refreshing, and the moonlight reflecting on the water just made it a special moment…
To say my visit to Whale Island was an Oasis of tranquility would be as near justice as I could do with words.
Out of curiosity I recently looked at the island again and the reviews on TripAdvisor show that it gets modest reviews some good some not so good… which shocks me slightly – however you never know what experience you will have until you get out there and try these smaller, less traveled roads..