From the center of Tam Ky, we rode motorbike for about 45 minutes along the coastline to Tam Hai ferry port for the late afternoon ferry over Truong Giang river to the other side – that is Tam Hai island. Tam Hai island is a little beautiful island of Nui Thanh district, Quang Nam province which is currently known by little people. That we decided to come here is like a tiny fire ignited in a spontaneous moment. We started off without any information or guide.
The sun gleamed on the river and on the faces of the working people on the same ferry with us. They were probably the people who often traveled between islands and the mainland for trading because there were large bags of goods on their motorbikes that looked like daily living goods. Every 15 minutes to half an hour there would be a ferry like that to cross the river. The middle-aged ferry driver looked pleased with this steady job. Late afternoon ferries would carry young men and women going back home on the island after a day of work at land’s companies. The residents on the island said “Only the elderly are left here, the children go to school, the youth go to work in the mainland, many people go to Saigon. There is nothing for them to do here. Every job here is extremely hard.”
There are two main jobs here: seaweed picking and fishing. That’s right, every job requires people to have strong health to expose to sunshine and rain, not to mention on the days of rough sea, they have to risk the safety of themselves and their families. Depending on the season, people pick up different types of seaweed and catch different types of fish. The moment we visited the island was near the end of June in solar calendar, the season of algae (or in the local language “apricot vegetable” – a kind of leafy seaweed with leaf-like leaves) and flying fish (a species of fish with elongated body, slightly flattened, winged, flying).
The most hard-working algae picker with the biggest income in this area has the nickname of “Super algae”. That couple went offshore for 30 consecutive days except for the days of rough sea. The days they don’t go to the sea, it’s sure that no one will go. But the days when everyone was resting, it’s not sure whether they would rest. She told that every morning her husband and she boarded at 6am. Heading to the area with much algae, her husband wore an oxygen tank to dive deep into the sea to pick up hordes of algae clinging to the corals, while she was on the boat, waiting to pick them up. Diving equipment of the people here are rudimentary and self-made tools. When the boat’s full of algae, the two returned to shore. Usually it was 11 – 12 AM.
In the afternoon, people would gather at the beach to dry the algae. The next morning, a group of other people would shake the sand off the algae and put it into big sacks waiting for the driver to collect.
The day we hired a boat to follow the people to pick algae, dry algae, shake algae, we recognized that this work was extremely hard.
The first feeling when setting foot on the island is to be separated from the bustle of a growing urban area and return to the purest and most innocent core values of the landscape and people. The island has a strange, intriguing beauty.
We decided to ride a motorbike along the main road around the island. Calling the main road but that road is winding with a width of only about four meters at maximum. On both sides of the road, houses are dense, showing that the population living on the island is quite crowded.
Running for a while, we came to Tam Hai mural village. We stayed at local homestay and started exploring that island in a slower and closer way: walking.
The people on the island were friendly and gentle. Seeing us walking around, they smiled, asking how many photos we had taken. An elderly lady asked, “Are you going on a trip or are you a journalist?” (local tone), then I asked her again and again because I could not get what she said. When I understood, I just laughed out loud.
About a year ago, the houses in the village were just adorned with pictures of sea colors with various types of marine creatures and images of fishermen in daily life.
If you’ve ever loved the murals on people’s houses in Tam Thanh mural village, the Tam Hai mural village will make you more and more affectionate. There are not many paintings but they are concentrated and continuous on a small road leading to the sea, creating a harmonious whole. You just watch the painting, smell the sea, listen to the sound of the waves, the wind, and the thick tones of Quang, and touch the tangible objects. All senses are awakened at the same time. At this time, you will be immersed in a true artistic space – a unique art with the smell of life.
At the end of the mural road was a flat beach where people swim, gathering to have a few bottles of beer, drying “apricot vegetables”. The romantic scene appeared before our eyes when the sun let loose behind the clouds, pulling the curtain of light down and the sky became darker. In the dark-light picture, there was a long row of boats anchored on the horizon. Crystal clear sea water illuminated our youth. A youth where there were also sparkling rays, dark spaces, vast gaps, fragments of memory filled with suspicion.
On the second day on the island, when the sun was still lazy, we followed the elder to go offshore, watching people pick up seaweed, swimming, watching corals, taking a really good photo series, sitting together on the rocks, taking our eyes away, talking with each other random stories, then drifting our thoughts back and forth with the soft waves caressing the sand. “Sure, we will come back here someday very close, won’t we?!”
Here is some more information for you who want to visit Tam Hai:
Since the service has not developed much on the island yet, you can ask to stay at the villagers’ houses. The people on the island told us so.
If you want to find a comfortable place to stay there, so here it is: Rooms right at the Tam Hai mural village: 0813599699 (Mr. Tuan). Mr. Tuan’s homestay had only 2 rooms and a share-toilet, but the rooms are spacious and clean. There are several other places to stay on the island, but we stayed there so we recommend you.
Eat delicious seafood at Tam Hai restaurant at Bac Beach and Huong Bien at Nom beach.
The delicious dishes you should try: Grilled scallop fish, seaweed salad with snails (the type of seaweed used to make this salad is called “wolf vegetable” – the specialty of Thanh Mountain, Quang Nam – the only area in Quang Nam province that has this seaweed), fish hotpot, “xoa xoa” (a type of jelly made from a type of seaweed called “rubbing vegetable” – according to the local people, this kind of seaweed is concentrated in Tam Hai).
There is also fresh seafood prepared and cooked in familiar and simple ways. Just ask the food store which dish is good! Because the menu depends on the season and depends on the day.
You can also go to the local market to see if there is some rare and delicious seafood, then buy and bring it to the inn/ homestay to cook and enjoy.
You can ask villagers to hire boats to go to the sea to see people picking up algae or ask to follow them to see them fishing.
Who knows how to swim can bring glasses to go snorkeling to watch corals because there is a beautiful coral area that every villager knows.
There are also beautiful islands near the island but we only go to Mang island to swim and not go to other islands. Crystal clear water, little people, really enjoyable!