There are rocks in amazing shapes on the way up Cao Cát Mountain. — VNS Photo Ngọc Diệp
BÌNH THUẬN The first thing people should do when they visit Phú Quý Island in the south-central coastal province of Bình Thuận is to explore Cao Cát Mountain, especially if trekking up mountains is their thing, to enjoy the beauty of the sun setting over the sea.
I travelled to the island in mid-May, with Cao Cát in my bucket list. Little did I realise it would be the most memorable part of my entire trip.
I chose to travel by train for the first time from HCM City to the province’s Phan Thiết City. I started early, at around 6:30am, and the trip took around four hours.
It was a new experience for me. Trains typically travel faster than cars, and passengers do not face stress like when a speeding vehicle seems to head straight for them on the road. Of course, there is no exhaust smoke or dust either.
I could relax and watch some lovely scenery flash by.
A small kitchen on the train served foods and drinks. Though there were not too many items on the menu, what was there was not bad and reasonably priced.
A bowl of phở bò (noodle soup with beef) and an iced milk coffee were enough for my breakfast.
After reaching Phan Thiết train station at around 11am, I took a taxi to Phan Thiết Port, grabbed lunch, and took a speedboat at noon. It took for 2.5 hours to reach the island.
A panoramic view of Phú Quý Island from the top of Cao Cát Mountain. — VNS Photo Ngọc Diệp
It was a sunny day when I arrived after the long trip. What struck me immediately were the pristine landscapes and an almost total absence of professional travel services.
Rather than turn people away, these are enabling Phú Quý to actually become a travel hotspot since a growing trend now is for young people to enjoy nature in all its untouched glory.
Public transport is not available on the island, so I rented a motorbike for VNĐ100,000 ($4.3) a day at Phú Quý Port. That was the only way to explore the island.
At around 3pm I decided to check into a hotel. It was a mini hotel named Bảo Trân where I had already booked on my friend’s recommendation.
After filling up the motorbike, I easily found the hotel, which was on an uncrowded street.
The hotel receptionist was as friendly as the motorbike owner and the people I asked for the way. She recommended that I should enjoy the sunset from the top of Cao Cát Mountain. "You will not be disappointed,” she gushed.
From the hotel I made a few turns to reach Trần Hưng Đạo Street. It ran along the beautiful coast amid the green of trees and the blue of the sky.
Travelling by motorbike, with the wind in your hair, provides a sense of freedom a car does not. It took me 15 minutes from the hotel to reach the foot of the mountain. I parked my vehicle outside Linh Sơn Pagoda and walked up the mountain. After a short flight of steps I reached a narrow path. It took me just five minutes to reach the top.
But the views were impressive. I could see the ocean below, other hills nearby, the most spectacular of the lot, and rocks in some amazing shapes. There was one set with grooves running around them as if carved by a giant hand.
Many young people climb up Cao Cát Mountain in the late afternoon and wait for the sunset. — VNS Photo Ngọc Diệp
At the top, 106m above sea level, I could relax in the cool breeze and took beautiful photos of the picturesque surroundings.
There is a Buddha statue where locals come to pray.
I saw couples sitting on stones, eyes closed, enjoying the wind and waiting for the sun to set.
The scene looked like a painting with the blue water, fishing boats that seemed tiny in the distance, colourful houses, and green trees.
I could see islets in the sea, a lighthouse and windmills with their arms turning around lazily.
The stresses of the city dissipated as I became completely one with nature. It was a zen moment.
The view from the mountain peak is at its most romantic when the sun sets. — VNS Photo Ngọc Diệp
The sunset that day was the most beautiful I had ever seen.
People also like to climb Cao Cát in the morning to catch the sunrise, which must be equally spectacular without a doubt.
It began to get dark and I decided to leave.
I had worked up an appetite, and feasted on fresh seafood served by a local family.
Later I fell into a deep sleep even as I was thinking about my itinerary for the next day.
If it could match my trip to Cao Cát Mountain, it would be another day well spent. — VNS