Located in Hai Duong Province’s Thanh Mien District, about 70 km southeast of Hanoi, Chi Lang Nam, also known as Stork Island, is home to over 16,000 white storks and 6,000 night herons.
In total the journey took around an hour and 45 minutes. After passing through fragrant fields of young green rice we reached the island, which lies in a large and crystal clear lake named An Duong. The weather was sunny, but not very hot, which made Hai Duong a welcome escape from the humid heat of Hanoi.Usually tourists will hire a car to travel directly from Hanoi to Thanh Mien, but we chose to take a train to Hai Duong City and then a motorcycle taxi to the island.
The entrance ticket was VND20,000 (US$0.9) per person while the cost hire a boat was VND100,000 (US$4.6).
“This boat can carry up to 20 people,” share Truong, a 30-year-old boat driver with rich, tanned skin. We decided to take a boat although there were no life jackets or any other kinds of protection. Still, we had a guide to help and tell us more about these beautiful islands.
This is truly the kingdom of the white stork. Hundreds gather and there was no sense of panic when our boat approached. “Storks go searching for food in the daytime, so if you cone here in late afternoon, you will see thousands of them,” Truong said. “In contrast, night herons go hunting at night and that’s why the two species can live in harmony.”
Tourists come here to capture pictures of storks and many are willing to wait for hours to get a perfect shot.
“When I was born, storks had already gathered around this lake,” Truong shared, adding “Citizens here used to hunt storks for meat, which tastes similar to chicken or duck.”
According to the boat river, storks and night herons are easy to catch: “They are not scared of people so you can slowly approach them and grab their legs. You have to quickly put them into a bag so that they don’t have a chance to peck you.”
After stork island became one of the province’s most attractive tourist sites, the provincial government created new policies to protect and preserve the storks and night herons. “The rules are very strict. I remember two guys hunting 21 storks to sell in the market. Having been caught by the island’s security, they were fined VND21 million (US$1,000), which is a great amount of money in this commune,” he said.
Back on dry land we sat in a beverage stall run by 60year-old woman named So. She told is that there used to be seven families living on the main island but they had to move because more and more storks were invading their living space.
If tourists are interested, they can visit An Duong temple, which lies right on the bank of An Duong lake. The temple is a place to worship the village’s god and the locals usually come here on the first and the 15th day of the lunar month to wish for health and luck.
On the up
Since Chi Lang Nam has become famous, the life of people here has been improved. “Tourists come during every season so we can have stable incomes. We are all farmers but proving services in this tourist site brings us an easier and fuller life,” said So.
At around six in the afternoon when the sun sets, storks come back in large flocks, which create a spectacular view. After witnessing this sight we headed back to Hai Duong City and took a late train to Hanoi, each of us sure of our future return.