Son Islet – The Isolated Gem

Son Islet is an islet located in the middle of Hau river (Bassac river) with the total area of over 70 ha. The islet originally comprised small families doing gardening and cage fish farming. Until recently, the community on the islet starts developing one of the first models of community-based tourism in Can Tho.

Coming to the islet, you can visit fish cages with hundreds of thousands of fish, see how people grow special kinds of fish. In addition, you will have chances of walking around the fruit gardens, trying various types of tropical fruits and trying local food right at their houses. The rural paths with green shades, rustic houses made from coconut leaves, luxuriant fruit gardens are distinctive things of Son islet tourism.

Son Islet Tourism

History of Son islet tourism

Origin of Son islet

At the beginning time of the islet formation, there were a lot of Son trees (sumac plant), which gave the name of the islet. As in traditional craft, the sap from sumac trees is used in lacquer for wooden furniture while the trunk is used for woods. This traditional craft fall into oblivion gradually. The locals started to change to fruit gardening and fishing farming in cages.

A precious pearl with great tourism potential

Son islet is the small land formed from alluvial deposits of the Bassac river with the location in the middle of the river, which looks like a pearl in the mouth of a dragon.

The tourism of the islet started the plan of tourism in 2014. At first, there was a picnic of a group of students with the name “a day of being a farmer”. The islet people told that when looking at happy and exciting faces of the students participating the farming program, they started to think about the idea of doing tourism on the islet.

Recognizing special features of Son Islet such as spacious fruit garden with a variety of fruits all year round, large fish cages with thousands of fish, cooks who make traditional cakes and got rewards for making those cakes, Ms. Duong Truong Ngoc Tran, secretary of the Youth union of Bui Huu Nghia ward, determined to start doing tourism, bring these valuable features to the public and help in the development Can Tho tourism while benefiting the locals.

Therefore, from 2015, Son islet becomes a tourist attraction officially. At the beginning, with 40 visitors coming to the islet and leaving with satisfaction, the people here could feel a bigger potential of development in the future.

A place full of Southern culture

The spirit of Son islet tourism is the rustic beauty of the South Vietnam. The only way to get to the islet is by boat. The boat will then bring you to nearby fish cages. After that, you will step on the small rural paths full of shady trees leading deep into Son islet. You can have chances of visiting fruit gardens, having a look at “flying snake-head fish”, enjoying a delicious Southern meal prepared by the locals. You can also learn how to make traditional cakes and try those that are made by yourself.

Roads with green shadow on Son Islet

You want to be a real farmer and try catching fish in small canals? The people here will help you to get the special experience. You want to be a gardener and pick up the fruits by yourself? There are dozens of fruit gardens with plentiful kinds of tropical fruits; you want to know about traditional cakes of the South Vietnam? You will be instructed by the locals how to make the typical cakes in their kitchen…

A close relationship among villagers in tourism

The tourism at Son islet is specialized by community-based tourism (CBT). CBT means close connection of all families in the area when doing tourism. They join their hands and organize the tour on the islet together, based on the gratitude that has been existed for long time among the community here. They will support in each in terms of finance, work or simply mentality.

Each family has their own specialized product and characteristic thing. Families with fruit gardens can offer a visit to the garden or fruit eating experience. Families with fish cages can offer a visit to their farm. Families with experience of traditional cake can instruct visitors to make cakes and try them at their houses. Every family has their own product and responsibility. All of them contribute to a supportive collective and sustainable tourism of Son islet.

I can tell you that I have had lunch at Song Khanh garden house, crossed the “monkey bridge” to Mrs. Nam to make traditional cakes, walked to Mr. Bay to have grab hotpot, caught a boat to Mr. Ut’s floating house to get fried featherback fish…

A model for the city tourism

From 5 “No” to 5 “Yes”

Before tourism, Son islet only contained separate floating fish farms and gardens. They were just purely farmers working hard all year round to earn their living. This place used to be popular for 5 “no”: no electricity, no clean water, no road, no school, no Internet. Now it already gets 5 “yes”: electricity, clean water, road, Internet and foreign visitors (no school yet). Thanks to the tourism, the villager livelihood has improved and become better.

A standard model

Son Islet after 3 years of tourism development, the positive effects have turned the tourism here to a standard for other places. From 40 tourists in the beginning, it reached 150.000 in the first year. And now there are around 500.000 visitors on average every year.

The islet is also among the pioneers where service providers say no to plastic and look forward to sustainable tourism. Besides garbage classification, the garden households have been trying proper solutions to replace plastic bags and straws with biodegradable and eco-friendly ones. Additionally, any visitor coming to the islet is required to leave their plastic bags before stepping on the islet and replace with bamboo bags.

Shelf to leave nylon and plastic bags before Son Islet
Tourists are requested to leave nylon and plastic bags before getting on Son Islet

With the development of the tourism while maintaining the rural characteristic, the model of Son islet tourism has been chosen as the standard model for the tourism development of other places in Can Tho.

A small project of reducing plastic bags on Son Islet: https://youtu.be/Gu9fNAhEcmY

Transportation to Son Islet

Transport to Can Tho

Domestic flights: There are currently direct flights from Ha Noi, Da Nang to Can Tho airport provided by Vietnam airlines, Vietjet and Bamboo airways. There is also flight connection to Phu Quoc, Con Dao by Vietnam airlines in case you want to these 02 popular tourist places. The price varies from 750,000 VND to 3,000,000 VND (the lowest price is usually provided by Vietjet with booking in advance). The interesting of Can Tho airport if the little number of passengers due to limited flights and airlines. It’s not often that you have to wait long at check-in counters. Flying time between Can Tho – Ha Noi is about 1 hour 30 minutes and Can Tho – Da Nang is about 1 hour 15 minutes.

International flights: In 2019, Air Asia opened direct flights from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur with quite competitive price. It’s a very convenient way for those who come from Malaysia and Thailand or are travelling around South East Asia.

Note: It’s about 8 km from Can Tho airport to the city center, which can be reached by 02 options, taxi and motorbike taxi (Xe om). Another option is by using apps like Grab or Vato (similar to Grab but owned by Vietnamese)

Bus from Ho Chi Minh city: for those who depart from Ho Chi Minh city, the best way to come to Can Tho is catching a bus. The 02 biggest bus transports are Phuong Trang bus (Futabus) and Thanh Buoi bus. The price varies from 100,000 to 130,000 VND for one way. Time of operation covers almost the whole day.

Transport to Son Islet

With all tours to Son islet, you will be picked up at your hotel and everything will be covered A from to Z.

Tour details:

Or you can take a taxi or motorbike taxi of about 7km from Can Tho city center. Then take a boat crossing the river to the islet.

Note: The tourism in Son islet is CBT. Therefore, you go by yourself, either in group or alone, you will be charged for every tourist place separately and couldn’t have a visit to the floating fish farm. If you want to take a tour of all places in Son islet, you’d better take a tour provided by a tourist agency with lower cost. In case you only need to walk on the islet and visit a garden, it’s best that you go by yourself.

Places to visit and things to do in Son Islet: floating fish farm, lotus pond, local meal, traditional cakes, fish catching, tranquil countryside.

Floating fish farm of thousands of fish and special fish

Farmers grow freshwater fish like: catfish, feather-back fish, carp (Koi fish)… and special kinds of fish that can be hardly found in other places such as Red snapper, Fire eel, Red tail catfish, Tiger fish…

Cages of catfish floating on Mekong river
Catfish cages floating on Mekong River

Walk under green shades of fruit trees and on the rural paths

Son islet could submerge anyone coming here into peaceful and poetic scenery with rows of jackfruit of heavy ripe fruits or sometimes impressive Areca trees along the paths.

Lotus pond and “monkey bridge”

Lotus is the national flower of Vietnam. Beside its beauty that can’t be denied, every part of the lotus tree brings valuable uses to Vietnamese life, from culinary to spiritual life. Sitting in front of a lotus pond and enjoying the lovely flowers could lead you to a peace of mind. Another unique thing in the South of Vietnam is the “monkey bridge”. Simply made from bamboo, woods or any natural material, the “monkey bridge” plays an indispensable role in the history of the Mekong Delta region, where river system covers every miles of the area. The name “monkey bridge” refers to the skill and balance ability that one needs to cross the bridge. Consequently, there are plenty of stories and culture lies behind this special kind of bridge.

South Vietnam local meal

You can have chances to try a meal with the local food prepared by people living on the islet. Including ingredients and food that can be found from the surrounding areas such as fish caught from the river or ponds around the house, vegetables from the gardens or along the village roads, seasoning and fruits from the gardens… the meal will be an exceptional experience for any food-lover and those who wants to learn about the native culture through eating.

Meal with local food
Meal with local food

Experience of making Southern traditional cakes and snacks

One of the interesting activities that you should not miss is trying to make simple traditional cakes of the South Vietnam and eating them. Some of the cakes are jackfruit leave cake, Bánh xèo (pancake), bánh khọt (Khot cake or miniature pancake)… and many other kinds of cakes and snacks. If too lazy to make all the cakes, you can just spend your time trying a buffet of cakes and snacks.

All kinds of Southern traditional cakes

Fish catching

Fish on the islet is an important source of living for the inhabitants here. It’s not only the main ingredients for their meals but also helps the people get some money. Fish can be caught from the bog river, from scissoring small canals on the islet, from ponds around the houses and gardens. Spending some time to learn how to catch fish in a Mekong typical way and enjoy food made from what you’ve got is really an unforgettable experience.

Wandering fruit gardens and enjoying the fruits

Depending on the season, you can try different kinds of fruits, some are seasonal and others ripen all year round. Tropical fruits like mangosteen, milky fruit, jackfruit, coconut, guava, rambutan, longan… are grown without pesticides or any chemical, which can satisfy any fruit-lovers.

Fruit gardens with tropical fruits
Visit fruit gardens on Son Islet to enjoy tropical fruits in the South of Vietnam

Taste of lotus tea on the hammock

Drinking tea, tasting its flavour and feeling the delicacy is a kind of art in Vietnam. Lying on the hammock under cool green shades and fresh air while having a cup of lotus tea is something that the islet locals get used to after a day of hard working. This way of relaxing have made them feeling gratitude to what the islet has offered to their lives. For those for want to escape from the urban city life of rush and hustle, this experience can certainly give them a worthy break time and bring them closer to the nature.

Enjoy tea on the hammocks under green shades
Lying on the hammock and enjoying tea under green shades

A tour to Son islet with Mekong Smile Tour

From the beginning, Mekong Smile Tour has accompanied with people on Son islet to do tourism. We have had a long-term partnership with families who provide tourist services on the islet. Our services include:

  • Visit to Bình Thủy ancient house,
  • Learn about fish farming on a floating fish farm,
  • Visit to “flying fish” farm,
  • Tours to fruit gardens,
  • Experience of making traditional cakes and snacks with locals,
  • Meals of Southern local food,
  • English speaking tour guides with wide knowledge,
  • And more …

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