My friend and I are in the habit of travelling to beaches around late fall to early winter to enjoy their vastness and quietness.
We feast our eyes on the crystal blue ocean, with the ceaseless waves breaking gently on the shore, which puts our urban minds at ease.
The luxurious resorts or the well-known tourist-packed beaches would not suit our needs.
While we were searching for the right destination, our colleague, originally from Quang Ninh, giggled and suggested, "Why don't you guys try out Vinh Thuc? It's a wonderful pristine island. I'm sure you guys will like it."
So we hit the road that weekend without preparing much, other than taking a few clothes, some money and food.
Vinh Thuc Island is located in Mong Cai City in Quang Ninh Province. We caught a bus from Luong Yen Station to Mong Cai and then got onto a canoe to reach Vinh Thuc. The canoe fare was pretty cheap, about VND50,000 (US$2.2) one way per person.
We knew that Vinh Thuc didn't have tourist services such as hotels or resorts, but we got a chance to stay with the islanders at a low cost.
Nguyen Thi Van, our hospitable hostess, gave us a warm welcome as if she didn't mind at all having strangers staying overnight in her house.
"Don't worry about your stuff. Your bed is right there. Feel free to take my motorbike if you guys want to take a quick tour of the island. There's no motorbike for rent around here and you would cry if you had to walk around the island," Van said.
The roads on Vinh Thuc are mostly made of concrete. My friend was nearly silent, instead of being talkative as usual, probably because of the peaceful natural landscape.
It was an unforgettable experience for us to ride on the small sinuous road along the mountain slopes, looking down at Vinh Thuc Beach.
One side of the road was painted a vibrant purple by the blooming rose myrtle flowers, while the other side showed the deep blue colour of the sea. The brisk wind from the mountain and ocean refreshed us, taking away all our stress and tiredness.
We headed straight to the Vinh Thuc lighthouse, the most famous spot here to get a bird's-eye view of this wild island. So wonderful!
Down on the foothills of the mountains, the seashore curves and hugs the deep blue water, creating a masterpiece of Mother Nature.
If one looks closely, one can see the crystal-white crests far away, lapping gently against the rocks. There's a sense of tenderness blending with the brute power of nature.
"The view here seems to be even more amazing than that in Co To, doesn't it?" Hoang Mai, my friend, said.
No one goes to the beach to swim at this time, but the local kids were playing freely. The surprisingly gentle waves broke softly on the shore as if they did not want to scare anyone away.
"Wanna take some shots over the rocks? You don't mind taking some pictures of me, do you?" Mai said.
It goes without saying that a lot of photos are taken when two girls travel together. We took several photos, without noticing the approaching sunset. Right on the horison was the sun, burning red, and the tide was coming in. The waves lapped gently beneath our bare feet, making us feel the chill of an early winter afternoon. We made a phone call to Van to let her know that we were heading back for dinner.
A meal on the island is not as sumptuous as the ones in restaurants, and yet, it is very cosy and full of ocean flavours. Steamed freshly caught prawns, stir-fried squid and sweet sour fish soup were more delicious than usual, possibly because we had a large appetite after a day out.
"Make yourself at home I cook a lot. A group of youths came here a while ago. They didn't feel tired at all after a day out on the island till they returned and had a meal twice as much as usual," Van chuckled and said.
Night falls early on the island with a vast quietness. It became colder and we all bundled up and sat close to Van and her neighbours, listening to their life stories punctuated with their carefree laughter.
We realised that their lives may not be financially prosperous, but good health and knowing one's needs was the key to happiness for the locals here.
All of the sudden, a thought about the city and the job waiting for me there made me feel a little lazy.
If only I had 48 hours to spend more time with nature, watching the endless cycle of sunrises and sunsets and forgetting all worries about life.