Life taps a different beat on HCMC's solo island commune

By Huu Khoa   April 11, 2021 | 08:45 pm GMT+7
Imagine a place in the nation’s busiest city where cars and motorbikes are not a common sight. Welcome to Thanh An island commune.
An drone shot of Thanh An island from above. It is one of six communes in Can Gio District, about 46 km southeast of HCMC.There are around 4,500 residents living on the island. Thanh An is surrounded by protective forests, with a total area of more than 13,000 hectares, accounting for 18 percent of total land area in Can Gio.

An drone shot of Thanh An. It is one of six communes in Can Gio District, about 46 km southeast of HCMC's center. The island commune's total area of more than 13,000 hectares accounts for 18 percent of the Can Gio District area. It has around 4,500 residents and a large protective forest area.

According to the Peoples Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, from the characteristics of geographical location, natural conditions and current socio-economic status, Thanh An island commune can be considered as an extremely difficult area of the city. The commune has low-lying areas, often flooded by tides, with high population density with over 5% of the population belonging to the poor household category. This is a place that often suffers many damages due to storms, tropical depressions and high tides. It is difficult for socio-economic development.

According to the municipal administration, despite the area of protective forests, the island commune suffers frequent flooding and damage from storms, tropical depression and high tide. Given its geographical location, natural conditions and socio-economic situation, the commune is considered "a locality of special difficulty".

Dawn is also the time when the fishing boats of the island commune people go to sea. The commune has 3 hamlets: Thanh Hoa, Thanh Binh and Thieng Lieng. In which, Thanh Hoa and Thanh Binh hamlets are located on Thanh An island, while Thieng Lieng hamlet is located on a separate island.

Fishing boats head to see against a spectacular rising sun.
Thanh An has three hamlets: Thanh Hoa, Thanh Binh and Thieng Lieng. Of these, the first two are on Thanh An island, while Thieng Lieng Hamlet is located on a separate island.

From Can Gio pier to Thanh An island commune, there is no high-speed boat. At present, people who want to go to the island must use fishing boats.On weekends, many tourists from downtown Saigon and Can Gio visit the island. One day there are 5-7 trains carrying people back and forth between Can Thanh town (Can Gio) and Thanh An island commune, each trip takes about 30 minutes, ticket price 15,000 VND per person.

Since there is no high-speed boat from Can Gio Pier to Thanh An, the transport to and fro takes place on fishing boats. But many tourists from downtown HCMC and Can Gio District visit Thanh An on weekends.
About 5-7 trips carry people back and forth to the island commune. Each trip takes about 30 minutes and the ticket price is VND15,000 ($0.65).

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As a Covid-19 precaution, people from the mainland going to Thanh An for any purpose are required to fill out health declaration forms and have their body temperature checked upon arrival.

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Near the center of the island commune, people set up a daily street market between 5- 9 a.m.

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"The island commune is developing and changing day by day, with many new public infrastructure built like schools, medical stations, roads and exercise equipment in parks," said Le Thi Hoang Loan (R), a 58-year-old resident of Thanh Binh Hamlet.

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Starting 2018-2019, high school students in Thanh An do not have to travel by boat to mainland Can Gio District to study as Thanh An School now includes high school education.
Vy, a 12th grader, said: "Before, I had to get up at 5 a.m. to catch a boat to the school. Since we can attend school here, it takes only five minutes by bike from my house to reach there."

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The main livelihood of Thanh An residents is fishing, aquaculture (fish and shrimp) and making salt.
Bach Thi Teo, who has been engaging in fishing for more than 30 years, said: "In recent years, the fish catch and harvest have dropped significantly. Before, my family caught was able to earn a couple of millions of dong (VND1 million = $43) each trip. This has reduced to a few hundred thousands of dong. If we return empty handed, we lose the gas money.

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For about six years now, many residents have begun to raise oysters. Authorities are encouraging this as a way to reduce the local poverty rate.

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The island commune was only connected to the national grid in 2015. It has a public lighting system now, helping people move safely around at night. The most commonly used vehicle on the island is the bicycle.

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With just a few street vendors opening up late, the island commune gets really quiet at night.

 
 
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