But the island has more on offer for tourists, so Ly Son is emerging as a good destination for many visitors owing to its blue sea, while sand and yellow sunshine. Given numerous hearsays about the island, I decided to make a visit all on my own to Ly Son for relaxation.
It took me more than 20 hours to reach Quang Ngai City from HCMC on a sleeper coach. Then I took a bus running from the provincial city to Sa Ky Fishing Port at 6 a.m. and later it took me another 40 minutes to board a ship to visit the island.
There is only a daily trip to Ly Son Island by high-speed vessel or wooden ship. So, if one does not book tickets in advance or queue up to buy tickets early in the morning, they will have to wait until the next day.
June-September is the most wonderful period to go to Ly Son Island because of its golden sunlight and blue sea and sky. But those who want to witness how garlic is cultivated and harvested, the time between October and the year-end is ideal.
Despite the ocean waves, the high-speed vessel headed straight to the island, taking us to Ly Son in about one hour. The trip could take a longer time of 2.5 to 3 hours if travelling on a wooden ship.
Ly Son catches tourists’ eyes with its bustling and hustling port occupied by hundreds of both islanders and visitors. Islanders carry cargo of any kind on wooden ships from the mainland to the island. The port is always busy at the time between 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. with a lot of boats checking in and out.
Residents lead a peaceful and simple life on the island where hospitality and catering services are not well-developed. Lodgings are mostly located in the area surrounding the port with the Ly Son Hotel being the largest on the island. The room tariff at the hotel ranges from VND350,000 to VND400,000. However, one can choose to stay at locals’ homes at much lower prices of VND50,000-100,000 only for one person per night, or they can even set up a tent on the coast.
Farmers are harvesting garlic
Ly Son Island is quite small, covering a total area of 10 square kilometers but it is home to more than 20,000 inhabitants, mostly residing in An Vinh and An Hai communes on the big island. In fact, Ly Son is the name of the biggest island among a cluster of several islands. There are also about 1,000 people living in An Binh Commune located on another smaller island.
An Binh Island
Paying a visit to Ly Son between June and September, tourists will have a chance to enjoy local shallots and water melons. Shallots are planted virtually everywhere at the foot of Thoi Loi and Gieng Tien mountains. If ones reach the top of the mountains, they will have a chance to experience a panoramic view of green shallot beds that are looked after by a few farmers. Meanwhile, water melons there are not so big as ones in the mainland, but its flavor and tastes are said to be better.
Those traveling to the island during the final three months of the year will be able to enjoy the island’s renowned garlic and take part in the harvest of garlic with local farmers. Similar to shallots, garlic is grown on large areas with virtually every household having several garlic beds.
The total area under garlic cultivation is around 300 hectares, with an annual yield of 1,500 tons. The price of Ly Son-grown garlic is some VND100,000 a kilo, with the special garlic fetching up to VND1 million a kilo.
Despite its limited area, Ly Son is home to dozens of big and small historical and cultural relics such as Duc Pagoda, Hang Pagoda, To Vo Gate, Hoang Sa and Truong Sa army squadrons memorial, Am Linh Tu Temple and some ancient homes in Ly Son District. Especially, on climbing the winding and rugged road leading to the top of Thoi Loi Mountain, visitors can admire the vast sea with spectacular waves far away. The scenery of Ly Son is also beautified by various cliffs overlooking the sea, and several caves formed by the erosion of seawater.
Traveling to Ly Son, visitors can also taste a number of delicious dishes. In addition to signature garlic salad, there are urchin porridge, black sticky cake, and king crab, among others. Notably, visitors can participate in the Hoang Sa soldiers commemoration festival taking place in late February or early March of the lunar calendar.