In the past few years, the island commune has developed community tourism models, making contributions to socio-economic development for Ha Tien district.

In December 2017, the Kien Giang People’s Committee recognised the archipelago as a local tourism site.

Tourists coming to Ha Tien district are always curious of Hai Tac archipelago, a famed place in the southwest sea of the country. According to local historic documents, in 17th century, Mac Thien Tich, a leader of the region, many times ordered his troops to fight against local pirates, who lived in the area. The archipelago name Hai Tac originated from that time.

“Besides its mysterious name, Tien Hai island commune has great potential for developing tourism thanks to its primitive landscapes, fresh and cool atmosphere,” said Tang Hong Phuoc, Deputy Director of Ha Tien town’s Centre for Trade and Tourism Promotion.

In order to utilise the tourism potential, in 2014 the local authorities implemented a community tourism project for the period 2014-2020.

The commune consists of 16 large and small islands, locating 20km from Ha Tien Town and 40km from Phu Quoc Island.

The commune hosts 500 families with 2,000 people, who live mainly in Hon Tre Lon, Hon Giang, Hon Duoc and Hon U.

The biggest among the islands is Hon Tre Lon (also know as Hon Doc), which is an administration and socio-economic centre for the Tien Hai island commune.

All people and agencies in the commune are informed about the project and encouraged to join in voluntarily.

Hon Tre Village was chosen as a trial model with 17 families, who meet the requirements, to join the community tourism project.

Eleven households among them offer food and accommodation services, four households have acted as guides to take visitors to islands and fishing; and two households keep sea fish for visitors to understand raising local fish. Two companies have been specialised in transporting tourists to and from the mainland.

“Over the last three years, the project has brought along active results,” said Phuoc, “The number of guests coming every year has significantly increased and is now up to 70,000 tourists per year.”

Visitor Nguyen Thi Hong Phuong from Rach Gia city, northern province of Kien Giang said she spent two vacations in the area.

“What I like most when stay at the home of locals in Tien Hai is that I can live near them, see their routines and imagine as if I were a local,” she said.

However, the area is still lack of fresh water and electricity.

“By 2020, the national electricity system will reach the islands,” Phuoc said, “Tourism service will be better”.

“Its name “Hai Tac” (Pirates) is scary but actually the islands are beautiful in peace and many romantic beaches with white sand and blue water run long,” Phuong said.

Scary story of pirates

Hai Viet, an old resident on Hon Tre Vinh Island recalled his grandfather’s story on the pirates.

“There was once a pirate group named Canh Buom Den (Black Sail) on this island,” he said, “They mostly robbed trading ships passing Ha Tien – Rach Gia Bay.

“On the pirates’ ship hung a mop, meaning sweeping off all ships passing by.

“The gang controlled a big sea area of the Gulf of Thailand. Up to now, there are still rumours of treasure hidden by the pirates somewhere on this archipelago,” he said.

Many locals still believe there is treasure hidden on Hon Doc and scattering around the archipelago.

The only ancient mark on the island is a pagoda named Son Hoa Tu.

It is said that once there was a head of a pirate gang named Nguyen Thanh Van. Rumours say he was strong, was a brilliant swimmer and could dive as well as an otter, rebellious but at the same time, had a kind heart.

Once his gang travelled to Thailand, he fell in love with a beautiful woman and took her to Vietnam. Since then, he quit the pirate life. They had a daughter called Nguyen Thi Gai, who was then respected by locals as she built the only pagoda on the islands.

The Son Hoa Tu Pagoda remains up to now as an evidence of rumours on local pirates, a special attraction for tourists to the pristine islands.