Cam Nam

Cam Nam: Finding a home, 6000 miles away

Who would have imagined it to be possible to feel at home at a place you only stayed for ten days. A place that is located 9,632km (5,985 miles) from your hometown (thank you Google)? Before I made the trip, I couldn’t have imagined the bond I now feel with Cam Nam Island, on only five minutes’ walk from the Old Town of Hoi An.

Street in Cam Nam

Cambodia and Vietnam were the setting for a study trip I embarked on with my university at the time. I studied international tourism management and consultancy and we were working on feasibility studies, destination development studies, sustainable tourism studies, you name it.

Cam Nam

Our real job started when our group of eight students (four Dutch students and four German students) arrived in Hoi An, a historic town in the middle of Vietnam. Each group had a specific location assigned in which they had to work on doing research for their feasibility studies. All groups were scattered around the Hoi An and Danang area, covering a distance of about 30km (18,5 miles) in total.

Cam Nam

On arrival in Hoi An, we couldn’t wait to see what ‘our’ area would be for the next ten days. We quickly found the bridge that lead to Cam Nam, in our eyes still a mystery. The Cam Nam Bridge is the only bridge that connects mainland Vietnam to the small peninsula. A dangerously looking ferry boat is the only other possibility to access it.

Cam Nam

We were required to find our own place to stay, and quickly came to the conclusion that the accommodation possibilities at Cam Nam could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Right across the bridge there were three resorts, only meters away from each other. A bit down the road, there was a homestay. Understandably, the homestay didn’t have enough room to house eight students. Our remaining options, the three resorts, seemed to be topping our budget, but after a bit of haggling (we would stay for a rather long period of time, and they would have eight guests extra in the low-season), we opted for Waterside Resort & Spa.

Waterside Resort and Spa
Waterside Resort and Spa

The rooms of the resort were set in ‘villas’ as they were called, in a tranquil garden setting. Each of our rooms had a private balcony, and when we opened the curtains during the weekend, we were welcomed by the buffalos that roamed the garden.

Bison at resort
Welcomed each weekend by the bisons in ‘our’ garden

We had to learn as much as possible about the island in a short period of time. We visited local businesses, such as restaurants, bars, shops and craft shops, and even a primary school. Cam Nam clearly classifies as an off-the-beaten path destination (disclaimer: I visited in 2011, I don’t know what the situation is now), as it is nothing like the tourist attraction that is Hoi An Old Town.

Hoi An
Looking out from Cam Nam Island to the Hoi An Market

Everything is very local, meaning that besides a bike shop and a beautician, there are no proper shops. Just a few old ladies walking around with their carts with crisps (or chips if you’re American) and fizzy drinks (or soft drinks when you’re American).

old lady Cam Nam

There are a few bars and restaurants, of which the Sleepy Gecko became our address for a night out. We also enjoyed our visits to the Lighthouse Restaurant, which is owned by a Dutch guy.

Sleepy  Gecko
Our night’s out at the Sleepy Gecko

The major income of Cam Nam Island isn’t the tourism industry like it is of Hoi An, but the fishing industry. However, we also visited some companies that were part of the wood industry, or places that were into basket making.

Cam Nam

I loved everything about Cam Nam Island: its people, the nature, the peacefulness… Yet, there was one thing that bothered us during our stay. Obviously, our trip took place during the raining season. Rain itself doesn’t have to be that bad. It does get much worse when giant beetles take over the place and fall like bombs out of the sky. Quite literally.

On Cam Nam Island, we found a huge amount of beetles the size of our mobile phones (no smartphones at the time) crawling around in the garden of our resort and squirming on the streets. We tried to avoid them as much as we could. The one time I accidently stepped on one, I heard such a horrendous cracking sound, that I cried out in utter terror. I took a deep breath and told myself I should keep it together, that being scared of an innocent creature wasn’t very ‘cool’. But then, the insects took off and started to fly. And apparently, they could hold that up for only a few meters before they dropped to the ground with the speed of lightning. I will just share with you that the feeling of a giant beetle in your hair isn’t fantastic…

Beetle
Proof of the size of the beetles

Crazy insects or not, we wouldn’t let it stop us from exploring the island. To be able to see the entire peninsula, it is recommended to hire a bike, as it is fairly big. Hoi An has plenty of bike rental shops and even Cam Nam has one. When you don’t feel comfortable exploring the island by yourself, there are plenty of guided cycling tours available, in which you will also get the opportunity to visit some of the local companies.

Cam Nam Island

We rented bikes for the entire duration of our stay (the local bike shop was extremely pleased with us, I can tell you). Cycling around Cam Nam is something I had never experienced before. The inhabitants of the island were extremely kind to us, and always waved when we passed by. Of course we waved back or tried to make small talk with them (using our hands and feet to make ourselves understandable).

renting a bike

When a few of us were invited to visit a primary school, we met an English teacher. You’ve to understand that the level of English spoken in the rural areas of Vietnam is fairly limited, which made it difficult for us to even speak with the English teacher. Yet, he was absolutely thrilled to see us being sincerely interested in the island and its people, and invited us all for coffee at his home.

Cam Nam

So there we went, hopping on our bikes, making our way to the address the man had given us the day before. The teacher and his family lived in a house that wasn’t much more than some plastered walls with a collection of corrugated iron functioning as a roof. They had built some sort of tent in front of their home to be able to sit outside, even when it was raining or when the sun was at its brightest.

Cam Nam
Coffee at the English teacher’s home

We were invited to sit at a small plastic table with matching plastic chairs, which we had seen so often already in Vietnam. Trying not to bump our long, western European legs to the table (which would have resulted in a hot coffee stain disaster) we enjoyed our time meeting this man’s family members and pupils, the latter who came by for a tutoring class. He also taught us how to make traditional Vietnamese coffee, although I don’t think I would be able to recollect the exact process. It looked quite tricky!

The ten days of research came to an end much quicker than I had anticipated. I had grown fond of the Cam Nam inhabitants, and I believe that they had grown fond of us too. Strange really how these developments can take place in such a short period of time. In all honestly, I felt sad to leave.

Cam Nam

In the morning of our departure, we visited some of the people that we got to know during our stay, such as the Dutch restaurant owner, the English teacher, the beautician and the bike shop owner. We promised to come back sometime. I haven’t been back since, but whenever the opportunity arises, I’ll return to the place I called home, even if it was only for ten days.

I’m planning on sharing more about the destinations I visited during my stay in Cambodia and Vietnam. In the meantime, you can read a summary of the Vietnam stretch of the trip on Filling in the Map. Note: all photos are mine.

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  • What an amazing study trip! We spent quite a bit of time in Hoi An last year and loved the area, we’ll definitely have to plan a trip to your island – Cam Nam sounds really interesting (although any tips of avoiding those giant bugs would be very welcome!).

    Looking forward to reading more about your time in Vietnam and in Cambodia – both countries that I have a real soft spot for 🙂

    • Haha I can’t say I’ve something to complain about… 😉 Hoi An is great isn’t it? Cam Nam really is just across the bridge from Central Market. A short 2 minute walk.

      Thank you so much for your lovely feedback and I’ll post more about it soon! 🙂

  • I love these photos, it looks amazing! I nominated you for a Liebster award by the way (:

  • Drive on the Left

    We loved Hoi An, but never made it to Cam Nam. We also didn’t have any clothes made, making us the only people we’ve known NOT to visit the tailors. Did you get something made while you were there?
    Thinking back, it would have been nice to get some suits made for my work at the time. Then again, I don’t wear suits anymore!

    • Yes, I designed a dress at one of the tailors. It’s a dress I won’t wear everyday, but it’s a nice memory to this trip!

    • Snap! we never got anything made at the tailors although this was more a budget constraint than a lack of wanting to! So many nice dresses I wanted to buy but my bag was already too full! I think having clothes made in places is definitely a lovely way to remember you time there!

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