When I decided to visit Nha Trang, I had already in mind what I wanted to visit and that I wanted to do most part of the things on my own. I wanted to visit Diep Son island on my own besides not looking so easy to do so, and I did it.
I didn’t find much info on the web about visiting Diep Son alone, but I gave it a try. I did some bad decisions but I ended up visiting it without needing to join a tour.
Visiting Diep Son would be a getaway from Nha Trang. I was thinking to spend one night on this island that doesn’t have many offers. There is only one bungalow resort without many rooms and then there was this camping option that I decided I would do. I finally didn’t do it cause the thing didn’t go as I was expecting…
From Nha Trang to Van Gia
I left Nha Trang at lunchtime on a local bus that heads to Van Gia. It is bus number one, it’s cheap and takes less than 1 hour to get to Van Gia– say “Van Zá” unless you want all people on the bus laughing at you, that’s what happened to me.
Bus number one crosses the main streets in Nha Trang in the city center, so hopping on it will not be a problem. As local buses in Vietnam are so cheap, I thought I would visit Diep Son island in a much cheaper way than if I decided to join a tour, plus the extra challenge of going to a non-touristy place on my own.
I was already making a mistake when I decided to leave for Van Gia so late. I arrived at Van Gia at about 2 pm. The bus stop is not very far from Van Gia port where I am supposed to get on the boat to Diep Son. The place feels like a desert. The streets are empty. So empty that there are street lanes covered with drying rice. Nothing is going on here.
I was following myself on GPS and decided to leave the bus once I saw that Van Gia port was very close. I walked no longer than 15 minutes from the bus stop to the port. Once I get to the Van Gia port, I’m informed at the ticket counter that it will not be possible to go to Diep Son that same day.
I was very frustrated once I heard that. I had nothing planned on a stay in Van Gia and I had no idea where to go as this is not a place where I will find loads of accommodation options…
Sleeping in Van Gia
The woman at the counter told me that I need to be back the next morning very early in a chance to have more people to join on the boat ride. The boat doesn’t leave unless it has a significant number of people, so I’m always depending on other people going there too. – If you don’t go to Van Gia port very early forget about a chance of going to the island. – Well, I didn’t have any other choice so I started to search for a place to sleep in Van Gia. Hotels are rather expensive but that’s my only option. I ended up staying in a hotel not further than 5 minutes walk from Van Gia Port where I paid 300K for a night and that’s because I bargain. With that money, I could spend 3 nights in Nha Trang… So, after all, doing this on my own ended up being more expensive than joining a tour. The hotel I stayed at was Khach San Gia Huy that didn’t look bad. It wasn’t actually bad if the room wasn’t filled with roaches and an awful mold smell. The smell was coming out of the bathroom as well as the cockroaches but I wasn’t able to close the door because it had problems. There were at least 5 roaches in my room and I had no choice but to kill them all which took me a lot of courage and time and a few screams too. Don’t advise this place!
After some nerve-wracking moment killing roaches, I needed to find a way to close that door. So I figured out some clever way of doing it after many attempts as putting a chair behind the door didn’t work.
Watching the sunset in Van Gia
After a lot of searches, I found nothing to see or do in Van Gia. But before sunset, I decided to go out for a walk just to check what was around. And that was a great idea. Van Gia offers a very beautiful sunset scenario and I loved to be there. I’m sure these people don’t see foreigners very often so I was gathering all the attention. I was again in a place where people would greet me with ravishing hello’s and therefore I enjoyed very much being in Van Gia. There was this place on Trần Hưng Đạo Bridge where everybody was gathering. It is indeed a beautiful place so, like them, I sat on a chair on the sidewalk and enjoyed the view and the sunset while drinking my sugarcane juice. It was fun to observe the very admired faces that saw me there and needed to check twice if their eyes weren’t fooling them. Yes, it was a foreigner sitting among Vietnamese in a very unexpected place. This was my favorite sunset during the week I spent in Nha Trang.
But it was also clear that Van Gia isn’t a tourist stop, because of the amount of garbage spread around. Van Gia has a small beach near the bridge and loads of trash were laying on the sand. The smell was bad and the sight wasn’t good either. It bothers me to think about how they simply not care about all that trash in front of their eyes. This is something I will never understand about Vietnam.
Anyway, after sitting for more than 1 hour at the bridge, I went on my search for a place to have dinner. There aren’t many options but I managed to find a very tasty one on the sidewalks not so far from my hotel. Sugarcane juice here was costing less than half of the price of the same drink in Nha Trang.
Boat from Van Gia to Diep Son
The next day in the morning, at 7 am I am already at the pier. I managed to have some food with me for breakfast as I was expecting to have lunch on the island. Luckily, there was this other family of 7 people already at the pier. I didn’t see anybody else, so I guess I was lucky that day. Maybe not even Vietnamese go to Diep Son that often. We were 8 so I managed to not wait much until we departed. When I bought the ticket I told the lady I wanted to go to Diep Son, what I didn’t know is that there is more than 1 pier on the islands. Diep Son is in fact composed of 3 different islands so 3 piers exist. But there is one where all tourists go and that’s where I was expecting to go, but things didn’t happen that way.
Nobody speaks English so I have no way of knowing what is happening and what am I supposed to do. I just follow what others do. The ticket was 100K one way but they demand you to buy a two ways ticket. I did this trip in 2019 and I’m not sure if there are more options to get to Diep Son from Van Gia atm.
I should have said that I want to go to the biggest island, but as I didn’t know that the boat had other stops, I didn’t. I also assumed it would be clear that I want to go to the area where there are things…
Unfortunately, the boat stopped at the first of 3 islands and everybody stepped out, so of course, I did the same. GPS wasn’t working and I had no idea where I was when we left the boat. There are some constructions that are part of a restaurant but to my surprise, it was closed. This place was completely empty. Only the people that arrived on the same boat as I were there. This was not what I was expecting, a complete emptiness. Am I supposed to sleep here? I would feel totally scared if so… Everything looks pretty abandoned. I decided I will not sleep in Diep Son.
Exploring Diep Son Island
After struggling to get my GPS sign, I finally got it and realized that I shouldn’t be at this island but on the furthest one instead. It looks far but I have no idea how long will it take to get there if I walk. Plus, the 3 islands are only connected by a sandbar during low tide that I have no idea when it changes. It was very frustrating having nowhere where to get info. I needed to make a clueless decision.-
First, I decided that I will not walk to the biggest island. I didn’t even know when was the boat supposed to leave back to Van Gia because I was supposed to sleep in Diep Son and for that reason, that information didn’t matter, so I didn’t ask. I decided to explore this island fully even though there aren’t any paths marked on the map. But they exist and I’m very glad I discovered them. I was rather disappointed with this island that wasn’t looking as beautiful as I was expecting. But that was until I decided to explore. The most beautiful part of this island lays on the other side from where we arrived. Over there, there was an actual beach to lay on, and the water was so clear blue. So, so pretty!! There was an abandoned house and once on the top floor, I could see how beautiful this place really is. So empty, so quiet, so desertic. What a place!
As I was expecting to be on another island, I didn’t bring much food or water with me and that was a problem. I was running out of water and at this abandoned house there was this water container so I didn’t hesitate on filling my bottle. The water could not be good for consumption but I was needing it a lot. This was one of the reasons that later made me walk to the island where I was supposed to be.
I spent several hours on this island. The sounds, the colors, the emptiness made me feel quite good to be there and very happy to visit such an unknown destination. I could finally enjoy the water and go for a swim in this part of the island.- The area near the pier had no beach zone– There were huge shells here. I saw the family that arrived with me collecting them. They had the biggest shells I have seen with them! They definitely knew what they were coming for. But I got the best one. Finding it made my trip to the island worth it. I found a Nautilus perfect shell! It is so truly beautiful!!! I was super excited about my discovery. I have never seen one and had no idea that I could find this kind of wonderful shell at Diep Son. I spent a lot of time taking it pictures with the surrounding landscape haha.
There was also a jet ski at the beach but no one in sight… The sunshades were fallen and this place had kind of a creepy feeling as in the abandoned house there were some blankets. I think someone might live there…
Once I was too hungry to continue enjoying this beach, I decided to go back to the pier and make a decision. I decided to walk to the biggest island unless I wanna starve. I think it was a late decision cause the tide had been low all morning, but I had no other option.
Walking through the middle island isn’t easy. There is no sand to walk on, only rocks which made the trip to the biggest island longer and more tiring. What I was also not expecting was to find people on this middle island. There were a few ladies working on fishing nets. They were as surprised to see me as I was to see them. We exchanged some smiles and they even waved me to go there but I was afraid I would not have the sand bar to walk on to the biggest island so I proceeded. I never walked for so long on rocks. It was difficult but ultimately I have sight of the biggest island. There it was! I was hoping that from there I would have the view of why I came to Diep Son for- a white sand bar surrounded by beautiful crystal blue waters.
I arrived at this big island at about 12.30 pm I don’t know if I missed the low tide, but the sand bar wasn’t so clear. I needed to walk on water up to my knees to get there and I was praying for it not to be much higher as I don’t want to wet my backpack (it was a small backpack)
Finally, and almost 1 hour after leaving the first island, I reach Hon Bip, the biggest island of the three. Here the scenery is completely different. Things are not abandoned and there was a bunch of people, mainly Chinese. They arrived here on a tour from Nha Trang. The sky is getting darker and the view was not how I was expecting it to be. I never managed to see the same image as I saw on the web that attracted me to Diep Son in the first place. And that was disappointing. But finally, here there was a restaurant and the first thing I did was order food and drinks. The restaurant was packed with Chinese but I was finally able to get some information about Diep Son as someone could speak English. I showed the waiter my boat tickets trying to understand what time does the boat departs to Van Gia. He told me that the boat company from those tickets doesn’t go to this island and to use that ticket I would need to go all the way back to where I was, which was definitely not going to happen. Plus, the boat would depart at 1 pm and I wouldn’t even have time to go back even if I wanted to. Although this island looks less deserted and not scary to spend a night, I was tired of making decisions and being anxious without knowing what I can expect from this place. Therefore, I decided to keep my last decision and not have to think anymore about anything else. To go back to Van Gia I had to buy another boat ticket and spend 100K again. That’s one of the bad things to travel alone to places where tourists don’t go and where no one can speak English. I ended up spending much more on doing this Diep Son trip on my own than I would have on a tour. But it was double the fun and challenge too.
Boat from Diep Son to Van Gia
I think that the boats depart too early. The last boat departed at 1.30 pm and I had no other choice but go at that time. I didn’t explore this island a single bit and I’m disappointed about that. There must be some viewpoint that allows me to watch the beauty of these islands when watched from above. I pity that nothing happened as I had planned or expected but at the same time, I was happy that it happened that way as otherwise, I wouldn’t have found the Nautilus or the most beautiful beach on the islands.
I went back from Diep Son to Van Gia at 1:30 pm the same day I arrived in Diep Son. The boat was filled with Vietnamese and some gross ones. It never happened to me before in Vietnam, but I had the unluck of having this gross guy staring at me with a disgusting look. And I wasn’t even showing that much skin… I noticed that he was staring repeatedly and that was bothering me a lot but I had not much where else to look as the view was covered by other people’s heads. He even tried to talk to me but I ignored him. I felt bad for doing it. This boat trip was very embarrassing and I felt very bad for being there. Luckily the trip from Diep Son to Van Gia doesn’t take long…
Bus from Van Gia to Nha Trang
The next thing I do is heading to the main street where I know the bus to Nha Trang passes by. Finding the bus station was not easy as I know that many times there are absolutely no informative boards on where the bus stops. I needed to ask someone on the street and that was when something weird happens. I asked a lady and she told me to wait right where I was. I found it weird that I was just right where the bus stops when I approached her. She keeps smiling but I think she doesn’t understand that I want the local bus as she mentions “van” many times. I start doubting that this lady is telling me the right thing as her behavior was weird. All of a sudden, a minivan stops right in front of me and a Vietnamese tells me to get in, as well as the woman standing next to me. It was weird for me that she was walking on the street and when I made her the question she decided to stand there next to me. She is very insistent on me boarding that van, as well as the guy. I feel something is wrong. Why the hell would this guy stop there for me? How does he know I want to go to Nha Trang. Then I remembered the lady has done some calls while waiting. I thought this was very odd and left the place rapidly even with them talking to me. I just turned my back and walked away. I have no idea what happened in there… I decided to keep walking and maybe I will find a proper bus station and ask no one about it again.
I finally found it. There was even a seat. I finally board the bus and head to Nha Trang without having sure that this whole trip was worthwhile. A few hours later and feeling more relaxed, I had sure it was totally worth it as I had been on a totally unexploited island.