Among Saigon's rapid urbanization, there exists a hidden island not so far from the center of a bustling metropolis. Thanh Da Island can be seen as a sort of rural oasis given that it can become an escape from the atmosphere of a crowded active city. The island is located just 8km from the center of District 1, Saigon’s downtown area, and is accessible by a single bridge that connects the two parts of the city.
Sights of wooden boats and fishing nets are scattered throughout Thanh Da Island’s river
Thanh Da Island is a part of Binh Thanh District and was originally a peninsula surrounded by the Saigon River on three sides, creating a giant loop. However, at some point, the city decided that a canal was necessary to shorten the connection between the river. This canal was constructed straight across the narrowest part of the peninsula and effectively changed the landscape of the area into a 500-hectare island.
There were big plans of urbanization for Thanh Da Island backed by Dubai's investors after the construction of the canal, aiming for a state of the art supercity with many high rise buildings, shopping malls, university, and more. Unfortunately, the project was shortly halted and according to locals, there are building restrictions placed on the area to prevent the locals from building any tall or decorated buildings of their own. This is to prevent further compensation for demolishing the area when the government decides to resume its plan. All of these reasons are said to have resulted in why Thanh Da Island remains as an old-fashioned environment amidst a thriving modern metropolis.
Old apartments are a signature in Thanh Da
As mentioned, hardly can visitors find any grand and dazzling hotels or buildings in Thanh Da. Fortunately, since the area is not so far from the city center, you can enjoy the comfort of first-class hotels in District 1 then make your way to venture to the different side of Saigon. Additionally, one can find some cozy farm stay or Airbnb around the area for a quick escape to nature.
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A bamboo water wheel on the side of the river in one of the Binh Quoi villages
A couple wearing traditional Vietnamese clothing rowing across the river in one of the Binh Quoi villages
Even though Thanh Da Island remains relatively underdeveloped compared to other adjacent areas, the government has taken up the responsibility of making sure Thanh Da Island can still thrive. Binh Quoi Tourist Villages is a government-owned establishment constructed to attract tourists with its authentic rustic Vietnamese countryside appeal. There are a total of three separate villages to the Binh Quoi Tourist Villages attraction. These villages all feature things like wooden bamboo bridges, bamboo water wheels, fishing nets, rowboats, etc., all to recreate an environment that is akin to 1970s traditional rural sceneries. Due to these reminiscent settings, the villages are often popular locations for photography, especially for weddings.
A gorgeous lotus pond on Thanh Da Island
The cozy backyard of the Binh Quoi villages
Besides these attractions, visitors to the villages can go on a biking tour around the area and partake in rowing a bamboo boat across the river, crossing the monkey bridge, swimming (indoor and outdoor), fishing, and more. If you choose to participate in fishing, you may keep what you catch and take it home or have it prepared for you on-site as a meal. There are also many restaurants all around Binh Quoi parks with an open-air buffet on the weekends that can be enjoyed under thatched cottages while being surrounded by tropical foliage.
If you are looking for a rural countryside experience without traveling far from the city’s center, Thanh Da Island is the perfect destination just for that. With an atmosphere of a peaceful rural village combined with a variety of relaxing activities to participate in, Thanh Da Island is indeed a hidden gem in Saigon's metropolis.
© Written by Long Tran for itourvn.com