Tho Chu, an archipelago with eight islands, is a commune of Phu Quoc District, which is in turn an island off Kien Giang Province.
The archipelago, however, has not been frequented by tourists despite its wild and natural beauties.
It is because Tho Chu is 220 kilometers from the mainland, a distance which is two to three times farther than other popular islands in the nation such as Co To, Bach Long Vi, Ly Son and Phu Quy.
To reach Tho Chu, visitors have to take a 16-hour boat trip which departs every five days. The boat stops over at Phu Quoc Island for one night.
Our first destination upon arrival at Tho Chu is the two milestones built to assert the nation’s sovereignty over the islands. One of the milestones was built in 1956 by the then South Viet Nam regime and the other was built in 1976 and recovered in 2003 by the Viet Nam Government.
Located nearby is Tho Chau temple which was opened in 2013 to commemorate 500 civilians who were abducted to Cambodia and then massacred by Khmer Rouge in May 1975, as well as the soldiers who died in that battlefield to protect the islands.
Aside from those historical places are stunning natural landscapes that make Tho Chu look like a giant painting.
It is hard to find anything which is more wonderful than riding a bicycle along the coastal road to watch the smaller islands around such as Xanh Island and Tu Island as well as flocks of terns flying over boats laden with fish, and then return to the Tho Chau Commune center through a path under the shades of trees, listen to birdsongs and enjoy the delicate scent of wild orchids in the air.
There are many beaches with white sand and blue sea around Tho Chu but the most beautiful and wildest one is the beach of Tu Island with its particular ecosystem that can hardly be found elsewhere.
The seashore with white sand is like a crescent moon, surrounded by coconut trees, heliotropium foertherianum, barringtonia asiatica, and the purely blue seawater, creating a small airtight gulf.
Another great scene is the stone layers that were created by water flows and winds for millions of years. Towards the forest are smooth stones in odd shapes, caves and semi-submersible rocks.
One activity on Tho Chu that left a deep impression is snorkeling to watch coral reefs and collect snails at Cao islet.
Reaching the depth of more than eight meters under the sea, we are attracted by seaweed, and schools of fish swimming among Montipora corals or gather around Acropora corals.
After snorkeling, we go fishing. The fishing activity at Tho Chu is different as we drop the line while the boat is sailing and do not use either fishhook or bait. To cat fish, we use nylon torn into small pieces and tie it to a 30-50-meter fishing line. While the boat is moving, the nylon bundle is used as prey to catch fish. As the fish bite the nylon and their teeth get stuck in the nylon bundle. That is how they are caught. What a new experience!