Nghi Son, Vietnam is a very rural area located on the coast. Infrastructure is not quite as developed there as in other areas, so the shore is also the trash dump, and the water is most likely contaminated with sewage and nearby industry run-off. Needless to say, we did not feel good about swimming at the beach closest to our hotel without getting sick. I did, on some occasions, let Landon dig in the sand there just because it was something close to our hotel for him to do, but that was the extent of our use of the shore. For more on my first impressions of Nghi Son, check out my first impressions post here.
Fortunately for us, there was a clean, swimming beach about 5 km from our hotel. I asked the front desk about good beaches and they directed us to Nghi Son Eco Island. Since we were staying so close by, we took a taxi to the beach. There are very simple accommodations and a restaurant/beach-side bar for snacks, drinks or an open-air meal. Nghi Son Island is really a mountainous peninsula connected to the mainland by a bridge. There is a small river/stream that creates the island by separating it from the mainland. Along with a gorgeous beach, there is a fishing village on the northern side of the island. We visited it once- more on that in a later post. Once across the bridge, we could turn left to go to the village, or right to go to the beach. The road was extremely rutted and the taxi driver actually wanted to charge us a ton extra because it was so bumpy. There is a ticket booth on the way in, tickets are less than a dollar and only adults need tickets. Austin talked him down a little, but they did have to compromise. We did not have a chance to visit again, but I decided that in the future, I would just run/walk there!
The dirt road led to a dirt parking lot with a few motor bikes, and a security guard. There were basic public restrooms up at the parking lot area, and then a trail down to the beach. When we visited, it was sunny and warm, so Landon had a blast playing in the waves. The waves were small enough for kids- nothing really big enough to surf or body surf for adults, but fun for playing!
We did not make it to iconic Halong Bay with the famous limestone islands during our time in Vietnam, but we did see some similar-looking islands off of the coast of the beach. With our zoom lens, we could get some decent pictures of them, along with a fishing boat that was going back and forth off of the coast. I love the vibrant colors of the boats!
One nice thing about the beach being out in the middle of nowhere is that it was relatively deserted when we visited. There were a few local kids that had walked over from the island town, but other than that, we were some of the only ones there.
Speaking of the kids, Owen was quite the popular guy with the local kids. There was a big group of pre-teen girls with parasols to protect themselves from the sun. It was hard to tell how old these kids were because they were tiny. They loved playing with Owen and taking care of him. Owen loved crawling and digging around in the sand, occasionally putting it in his mouth, like any curious baby.
After the big group of girls left, this group of boys moved in. I’m not sure how old they were, but I’m guessing 13 or 14, just based on their English skills. After a few moments, one of them grabbed Austin’s arm and asked through hand signals if he smoked. He shook his head no. They asked if he injected steroids. He said no. They offered him a cigarette. He said no. They said, in English, “Smoking manly!” Austin replied, “Smoking deadly!” Then we told them to go away from Owen while the
they smoked cigarettes. These kids were kids. Smoking. It was so sad to see them wrecking their lungs at such a young age! I could tell some of them were addicted because they had several cigarettes just in the few hours we were at the beach.
All too soon, the sun was setting behind the hill and we packed up to go back to our hotel. We did have some trouble with phone service in this area, so it was difficult to call a taxi. Since it is such a remote area, there were no taxis waiting to take people back to the city, and very few coming. We ended up waiting about an hour for our taxi sent by the hotel to show up. Turns out, he got lost and did not know where we were. This just cemented my resolve to walk here next time! Nghi Son Eco Island is a secluded, beautiful, clean beach about five hours southeast of Hanoi. I’m not sure I would recommend traveling to this area specifically for this beach, we loved our time at the beach!