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I arrived in Quan Lan from Cat Ba.
I had not planned to be in Quan Lan; I was, actually, trying to get to Co To…
Anyway, I arrived in Quan Lan without any pre-booked accommodation. I booked into the Ngan Ha Hotel just walking in off the street. I was only staying 3 nights, so I booked all 3 at the Ngan Ha. The room rate was VND300k / night; I negotiated them down to VND200k / night.
On my second day I decided to rent a scooter and have a look at the island.
I had read (on the little information available) online that scooter rentals were VND100-150k / day.
I asked Ngan Ha how much their scooter rental was. He showed me VND100k on his cellphone. I typed in VND80k (the Cat Ba rate). He wouldn’t budge. VND100k was it.
There are no Petrol Stations on the island; you have to buy 1.5L bottles of petrol from the shops. You will see the bottles displayed on the street.
A 1.5L bottle should cost VND40k. I put one in my scooter and set off.
To legally drive a scooter in Vietnam you must have either a Vietnamese Driving License or an International Driving License.
If you do not have a valid license, the fine is US$150.
I didn’t have a valid license… but there didn’t seem to be any problem at all – and you don’t really see any police around. You get the feeling that, even if the police did see you, they wouldn’t care.
The Ngan Ha gave me a map of the island with the main roads on it, towns, and beaches.
I already had my local Viettel SIMcard which gave me GPS access to Google Maps.
You don’t really need GPS – there aren’t many roads.
I started by heading east toward Minh Chau.
Before I knew it, I was at the start of Minh Chau Beach.
Minh Chau beach was a nice beach and would be a lovely spot in the summer. However, I didn’t see any of these ‘expensive resorts’ that I read about online.
THE EASTERN TIP:
There is no fishing village there; it is just a peer.
I turned and headed back west and passed some fishing boats.
Back on the main road, I kept my eyes open for these roads that are meant to take you to Son Hao Beach.
I had run out of petrol so I stopped and filled up with another VND40k bottle.
There’s nothing special about the road to Cau Cang peer (where I landed on my fastboat).
You pass a nice bay on the way.
There isn’t anything to see at the western tip. There is a small beach but no facilities. On the headland there’s an army camp.
I sat down with some local workman (who were doing some upgrades) and had a cup of tea. They were sharing something in a pipe – which I declined. 🙂
IN SEARCH OF SON HAO BEACH:
Again, I couldn’t find any roads leading to the southern beaches and found myself back in Quan Lan Village.
I was determined to find Son Hao Beach, so headed back east on the main road.
I searched for any track heading south and took it. I ended up in many dead ends and in many people’s back yards.
In the end, I found the secret… the old main road east still exists and runs parallel to the new one. You get onto this side road.
You are back-wheel-spinning and losing your back wheel in soft sands and on gravel; it is easy to lose control of the scooter if you are not confident.
The effort was worth it. Son Hao Beach is the best beach on the island and stretches for several kilometres. I am sure that, over time, they will complete these roads to Son Hao and make the visit a lot easier.
This is definitely the beach to go to in the summer. There aren’t many facilities there, so take a picnic and what else you need for the day.
MONEY / PRICES:
Scooters: Get yourself a good, new one that is economic on petrol. I paid VND100k for my scooter but had to fill up 3 times. It cost me VNS120k for petrol! A decent automatic should cost VDN120k / day and be cheaper overall.
Petrol: VND40k for 1.5L of petrol in Quan Lan Town; VND50k on the open road.
Food & Drink: There’s not much around; I suggest that you bring your own.
There may be accommodation on Son Hao and Minh Chau beaches, but I didn’t see any. Not what I would call a ‘resort’ on a beach anyway.
There aren’t many foreigners on Quan Lan and few people speak English. This is a Vietnamese holiday destination.
If you don’t speak Vietnamese, you may find it hard to find accommodation out of Quan Lan Town (for a good price anyway).
It would seem that you are best to get budget accommodation in Quan Lan Town and to rent a scooter to go out to the beaches as and when you want to.
Quan Lan Island is a ‘chill out’ destination.