Thanh Lan Island, A Paradise In The Gulf Of Tonkin, Vietnam

[Guest Post] Thanh Lan Island, A Paradise In The Gulf Of Tonkin, Vietnam

Welcome to Vietnam! I am Thuy Le. Today, I am going to introduce to you my charming hometown, Thanh Lan Island, Vietnam. The beautiful Thanh Lan Island is located in the Co To District of Quang Ninh province. If you are in search of a peaceful and pristine beach retreat away from the tourist crowds, then this is the perfect island paradise for you.

Welcome to Thanh Lan Island!

Where is Thanh Lan Island?

If you are familiar with Vietnam, I am sure you’ve already heard of Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. Well, it’s time to add Thanh Lan Island to that holiday list. 

Thanh Lan Island is slightly to the north of Ha Long.

Where is Thanh Lan Island?

Thanh Lan is located in the Gulf of Tonkin. You will get to see the breathtaking limestone islands of Bai Tu Long (sister bay of the more well-known Ha Long Bay) on the way to Thanh Lan Island.

In terms of distance, Thanh Lan is only 250 kilometres away from the country’s capital, Hanoi, 950 kilometres from Hoi An/Danang, and 1,920 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh city.

How Many People Live in Thanh Lan Island?

Thanh Lan is a small but very pretty island. The population of the island is also small,  with around 1,500 people residing here. We all know each other well.

Only sunny skies in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Among the people living on Thanh Lan Island are several ethnic minority groups including the Hoa, San Diu, and Kinh (the largest group).

Most locals live in the coastal areas, but you will see a lot of greenery thanks to the island’s natural jungles and hills.

The people in Thanh Lan Island.

What is the Main Source of Income in Thanh Lan?

Do you like seafood like ocean fish, jellyfish, crab, scallops, cockle, squid, or sea snail? I caught you smile there. Surely you will be happy to know that you will get plenty of fresh seafood at a very reasonable price in Thanh Lan. You will be spoiled for choice!

Getting to Thanh Lan.

That’s because the main source of income in Thanh Lan is fishing and its related industries (such as seafood processing, packing, and canning).

You’ll notice a few homegrown businesses set up in small shops, houseboats, or little boats that sell local food, houseware, or furniture, catering to the needs of locals and visitors.

Local boats.

How to You Get to Thanh Lan Island?

It was not convenient for foreigners to get here many years ago. While several official documents were once required to enter, the situation today has changed, making it much easier to visit. Now, visitors only need to show their passport at the port of entry (Cai Rong).

I told you how far the island is from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but do you know how to get here?

  • From Hanoi – Take a four-hour bus from Hanoi to Cai Rong Port. Then, take  a 90-minute boat ride to Thanh Lan.
  • From Ha Long – Take a short bus/taxi ride from Ha Long to Cai Rong Port. Then, take 90-minute boat ride to Thanh Lan.
  • From Ho Chi Minh – Take a direct, two-hour flight to Van Don International Airport. Van Don International airport is only 7 kilometres away from Cai Rong Port. 

Here are some of the incredible limestone rocks of Bai Tu Long Bay which you will get to see on the way to the island.

See Bai Tu Long on the way.

Look here! That’s the picture of the jetty on the island. We are waiting for you!

We wait for you in Thanh Lan. 

What is Special About Thanh Lan Island?

Thanh Lan is not at all a commercial tourist place. There are no high-rises, traffic jams, pollution, or annoying noises. In fact, most restaurants do not even have a menu, but they will prepare whatever you ask for. If your soul longs for the sea and isolation, then this is the place to be. You only hear the gentle sound of waves splashing, only smell the salty ocean, and only see the pristine blue sea and untouched sandy beaches. You have come to where you belong.

Lovely beach and sea holiday.

What Can You Do in Thanh Lan Island?

There are so many things you can do in the island! Here are few in no particular order:
  • Swim in the warm, blue sea.
  • Lay on the beach and bask in the sun all day long.
Welcome! I am glad to see you here. 💗

  • Watch the sunrise or sunset. 

Catch a sunset at the beach.

  • Spot the different kinds of fish.
Enjoy nature in its purest form or spot some fishes.

  • Go on fishing trips with local fishermen.
  • Learn how to handle and sail a small boat.
  • Take a trek through nearby hills with a local guide.
  • Learn about the local plants and vegetables.
  • Visit the unique boathouses and the families who live on the sea.
  • Visit local families on the shore and discover the local life there.
  • Ride a bike or motorbike to explore the island on wheels.
  • Do nothing. Just recharge your internal batteries.

Start of your perfect beach holiday.

Life in Thanh-Lan is laid back, really calm and peaceful. It’s, as I call it, “pure”. The people of the island are friendly, kind, and welcoming. They will always greet you with a smile and a “hi” or “xin chao”. They will also always make sure you get to your destination, either putting you on the right path or taking you there themselves. Over here, you become part of our family. 

Paradise in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Where Do You Stay on Thanh Lan Island?

While you can enjoy the pleasures of a perfect sea holiday experience, know that  accommodation is limited on this humble island. There are just four or five hostels for visitors. 

Lets find a place to camp.

You can book one of these hostels through Airbnb apps. The hostels here offer all the basic amenities for a pleasant stay, including a clean room, air conditioning, hot water, hot cups of coffee, and most importantly, a grand view of the Gulf of Tonkin. The hostel prices here range between US$17 and US$26, which is great for those travelling on a tight budget.

Coffee on the island.

When is the Best Time to Visit Thanh Lan Island?

You can visit me and Thanh Lan anytime. I would highly recommend you plan your trip for the summer months (May–September). If you love swimming and water activities, then this is the best time to visit Thanh Lan. You can swim under the sunny skies the whole day!

Take a walk in the beach.

But also consider visiting in the winter time. It will be very romantic, secluded, and peaceful—perfect for quiet walks and picking up shells along the shore.

Are There Dining Places on Thanh Lan Island?

It is hard to find a restaurant here, but do not worry. Your hostel and local host will cook delicious, local, and heartwarming meals for you. The local hosts will love welcoming you and sharing meals with you and their family. Just let your host know your meal preferences. By the end, you’ll be a part of the family!

Be part of us!

By the way, there are a few coffee shops here serving delicious local Vietnamese coffee. You’ll spot them cafes on the way to the hostel.

Coffee at Thanh Lan.

Why Should You Come to Thanh Lan?

This is my favourite place on earth, and that’s why I am sharing this beauty with you.  There is just so much to do and feel here. I could be in the blue and pure sea all summer. When I am not swimming, I walk, run around, or just have some coffee while watching the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. They never fail to blow me away. I am lucky, and you can be too. I work in busy Hanoi, so I welcome every opportunity to be home where it’s calm and beautiful.

Enjoy your stay in Vietnam.

Thanh Lan Island offers unique sights and experiences beyond what words can describe. You need to be here to feel it. Add it to your list of places to visit next, and come and experience it for yourself.

My home, Thanh Lan Island.

Guest traveler & writer: Thuy Le
Photos : Thuy Le (family & friends)