One of the most beautiful gardens in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta can be found on the island of Thoi Son. Just outside of My Tho, and created by a soil dune, Thoi Son Island sits in the middle of the Tien River, a branch of the greater Mekong.
For tourists in My Tho, this river-based island has become a prime tourist destination because of its abundant fruit trees, beautiful canals, and quiet garden paths. Perfect for a day trip out of the city, Thoi Son Island lets tourists enjoy life on the mighty Mekong River.
River Island in the Mekong Delta Region
Thoi Son (Thới Sơn) Island has an area of about 12 sq km (4.6 sq mi). With a long and skinny shape, the length of the island stretches for around 11 km (6.8 mi), but it is only about 1km (0.6 mi) wide. Sometimes called Con Lan, Thoi Son is the most famous of four islands that sit out on the Mekong River outside of My Tho (Mỹ Tho).
Officially part of the Chau Thanh (Châu Thành) District in the Tien Giang (Tiền Giang) Province, the island is an important tourist attraction for My Tho. Seen from the banks of the Mekong while on the mainland, most of Thoi Son’s attractions are stationed at the far end of the island, which is 10.8 km (6.7 mi) outside of the city center.
To get to Thoi Son Island, travelers will have to go by boat. The 30/4 Pier in My Tho is the most popular place for tourists to buy tickets to Thoi Son, however, travelers can also arrange to take a boat from Ben Tre (Bến Tre), which is 17.5 km (10.8 mi) away. A boat ride is the best way to get to the island because it allows tourists to see the extensive canal network on the Mekong River.
The history of Thoi Son Island is closely tied to that of My Tho. Originally, the area was settled in the 1680s by Chinese refugees under the rule of the Qing Empire. At the time, My Tho and Thoi Son were controlled by the Khmer Empire of Cambodia. Starting as a small settlement, the community slowly began to grow, eventually being reclaimed by Vietnam in the 18th century.
A popular river port, My Tho exploded as one of the busiest commercial hubs in Southern Vietnam, helping Thoi Son island also gain popularity. During the days of French Occupation, many immigrants were drawn to the beauty of Thoi Son. Remaining throughout the decades, it’s now one of the most popular attractions in My Tho.
- Other names for Thoi Son include “Unicorn Island” and “Con Lan Island”.
- On Thoi Son Island, there are more than 1,000 households and over 6,000 residents.
- Common fruit grown on Thoi Son includes plums, mangoes, papaya, longans, rambutan, and durian.
Small and not requiring a guide, there are plenty of activities for a full-day itinerary. Tours are a great way to see Thoi Son, having schedules that ensure you can see the best parts of the island.
Popular attractions in Thoi Son include the various fruit gardens, Mr. Tam’s Ancient House, Coconut Candy Factory, cultural performances, Beekeeping Garden, and canal tours.
Throughout Thoi Son Island, there are various gardens growing tropical fruits. Beautiful to see and learn about, most of the fruit is shopped off the island, however, many vendors in Thoi Son offer visitors an opportunity to try it themselves. A great place to go for a stroll or bike ride, a few of the gardens can be seen along the canals while taking a boat ride to and from the island.
Mr. Tam’s House
There are many ancient houses on Thoi Son Island, however, the most famous is Mr. Tam’s. Built using natural materials including bamboo, the house has a pearl-carved altar and garden where visitors are served tea and fruit. At Mr. Tam’s House, there are more than 10,000 trees that grow a variety of fruit.
Honey is also produced in the garden and visitors can participate in a workshop to learn more about the nectar’s production. Owned by a local family, Mr. Tam’s House has an accompanying orchard. Open throughout the year and eager to demonstrate their culture to tourists, the busiest months are from September to April.
Coconut Candy Factory
A family-owned business on Thoi Son Island, the Coconut Candy Factory makes a range of candies, including that of its namesake. Also selling wood crafts from coconuts, tours of the factory are offered daily, during which, visitors will get an up-close look at the process while tasting some treats. An on-site gift shop sells freshly made candy as well as souvenirs, crafts, and utensils.
Providing entertainment to tourists, locals host performances of Don Ca Tai Tu, a traditional form of music from Southern Vietnam. Featuring small choirs and beautiful melodies, Don Ca Tai Tu is a great way to learn more about the island’s traditions. Performances are held almost daily in the island’s lodge, gardens, and ancient houses, although there isn’t a set schedule.
In addition to the honey bees at Mr. Tam’s House, there’s an entire garden dedicated to beekeeping on the island. Feeding off of the flowers and trees in the area, the bees produce sweet honey. In the Beekeeping Garden, the bees are kept in a colony before their honey is harvested and tourists can book a tour to learn more, which often comes with free samples.
The canals around Thoi Son Island are well-known for their beauty. Often crowded with boats and tourists, they tend to be busier during the dry season. Offering sites of verdant gardens, floating down the Mekong River also provides guests with a chance to see locals fishing and transporting goods. Those interested in spending time on the water can book extended tours of the waterways.
There aren’t many accommodation options on Thoi Son Island, as most of the area consists of local communities. Tourists may be able to arrange for a homestay, but they aren’t very common. Typically booking accommodations in My Tho, the best hotels near Thoi Son Island include the My Tho Mekong Hotel, Cuu Long Hotel, and The Island Lodge.
The Island Lodge is the only accommodation located on Thoi Son and is only accessible to its guests. Although small in size, the manicured gardens, an open-air reception area, a restaurant, bar, and spa give it a luxurious feel. A great place to escape the noisy city, and situated on the western tip of Thoi Son, visitors should make reservations in advance as there are only 12 rooms on-site.
With small restaurants set up in gardens as well as on-site dining for guests at the Island Lodge, tourists will have plenty of places to eat on Thoi Son. Fruit is served throughout the day on the island as is fresh fish, including Tai Tuong, a fried fish dish popular in the area. Mostly offering Vietnamese traditional cuisine, dining on Thoi Son Island focuses on the local culture.
On Thoi Son Island, the best way to get around is by walking, biking, or hiring a horse-pulled carriage. Walking is easy and a great way to see some of the island’s best attractions while biking provides visitors with a chance to gently pedal thru the gardens. A more unique transportation option on the island is to take a horse-pulled carriage through the gardens.
Horse carriages can be hired for rides for an affordable price, however, they tend to loop around concentrated areas of the island. To get between destinations, tourists will have to walk to use a bicycle.
Being located in the Mekong Delta Region, Thoi Son Island gets a lot of rain during the wet season. The rain makes traveling in the canals difficult and it can quickly put a damper on garden exploring. Additionally, the high temperatures and humidity often make it uncomfortable for travelers to be outside for very long.
The best time to visit Thoi Son Island is from November to May, which is the dry season. Tourists can enjoy the clear skies, cooler temperatures, and all-around better weather as they tour the gardens of Thoi Son.
Although there is fruit growing year-round, the trees tend to be the most beautiful during the months of September to April. For travelers who are visiting Thoi Son during the dry season, the months towards the end of the year tend to be very popular for harvesting fruit and honey from the island.
Close to My Tho, Thoi Son Island is ideal for those looking to spend a day enjoying Vietnam’s natural beauty. Boasting gardens, canals, a coconut candy factory, and a beekeeping garden that offers visitors fresh honey samples, there is plenty to do on Thoi Son.
Address: Thoi Son Island | Chau Thanh District, Tien Giang Province, Vietnam
Season: Year-round | Best during the dry season