Written by: Huynh Phuong
Photo by: Duy Sinh
Situated along the crescent-shape shoreline of Quang Ngai, the two beaches of Sa Huynh and Binh Chau attract visitors with historic sites and breath-taking scenery. Join Heritage on a visit to this beautiful coastal region
Sa Huynh – more than relics
Two and a half thousand years ago, this region was the center of the Sa Huynh Culture. Today, it is a tourist destination. Located in Pho Thanh Ward, Duc Pho Town, about 50km south of Quang Ngai City, the site offers displays about the ancient Sa Huynh Culture, where visitors can admire Champa artifacts, pictures, and important historic relics.
Sa Huynh also offers beautiful untouched scenery, a clear blue sea, and long, lustrous sandy beaches. Fishing villages lie among shady rows of casuarina and coconut trees that stretch to the horizon. No wonder the late poet Xuan Dieu praised the region’s beaches during his cross-country journey:
“My dear, the ocean is a glorious beauty
Where all the blue waves seem to roll into Sa Huynh…”
(from the poem “My Dear” by Xuan Dieu)
Visitors traveling along National Highway 1A can hear the sound of crashing waves and smell the sea air, reminding them of the folk poem:
“After three years, the salt of Sa Huynh is still salty
Nothing beats the fish from Sa Huynh’s seas
Rainy mornings, sunny afternoons, and humid weather
May the Lords bless our sails with favorable winds.”
Sa Huynh also charms visitors with its white salt fields that can be seen in the hot season from April to September. Visitors can also take boat tours as fishermen set sail year-round. When in Sa Huynh, you should join some local fishermen on a night-fishing trip under the sparkling moonlight, while sipping some spirits to warm your belly.
One site that’s drawing more visitors lately is Go Co Village. Here, stone slabs of various sizes have been stacked up for centuries to keep out wild animals and flood waters. Located in the coastal mountains, this village is home to only 80 families, but its residents are thriving on community-based tourism, which is helping to preserve the legacies of their ancestors.
The maritime heritage of Binh Chau
The coastal town of Binh Chau in Binh Son District is located just north of Sa Ky Estuary, along the central road connecting Quang Ngai City to Sa Ky Port and Ly Son Island. Binh Chau’s main draw is its maritime heritage, with visitors enjoying sites like the ancient fishing village of Chau Thuan Bien, known for its “ship graveyard”, which contains many ceramics retrieved from shipwrecks of ancient trading vessels.
Another interesting site is Ba Lang An Lighthouse, built in 1982. Its flashing beacon still guides boats in and out of Sa Ky Port. After climbing over 80 steps to the top of the lighthouse, visitors enjoy views of the volcanic mountains stretching along the coast, and may even spot Ly Son Island in the distance, hidden behind clouds.
When setting sail, Binh Chau fishermen always remember this folk saying: “Streaky clouds mean heavy rain ahead. Beware of storms if the sky is red.” Ships caught in storms will aim for the Hoang Sa Archipelago, about 135 nautical miles from the Ba Lang An Lighthouse.
The coastal town of Binh Chau is now bustling with hundreds of boats going out to sea, often with dragnets to catch coastal fish. The nets unfold into various shapes and make for beautiful aerial photos. Meanwhile, trawling is a unique form of nearshore fishing, where the net gradually herds schools of fish and shrimp toward the shore. Visitors can help local fishermen to haul in their nets and buy fresh seafood sold right on the beach. Fishermen are especially busy during Chau Thuan Bien’s sargassum season, which runs from April to May. They use coracles to harvest this “blessing of the sea”, and employ dragnets to catch fish and squid hiding among the seaweed.
Nhan Island is another beautiful place in Binh Chau, where stunning coral reefs extend like a forest beneath the sea. Those with scuba-diving experience can venture underwater, while others must wait until the tide recedes to view the reefs, but should not step on them. While this is not the place for nightlife and urban excitement, visitors seeking pristine and peaceful beaches populated by honest and friendly people will find Sa Huynh and Binh Chau to be two of the most unique destinations in Quang Ngai Province.