A primary school student in Ha Noi looked suntanned after a holiday with his family in Thien Cam sea area in the central province of Ha Tinh, but his eyes radiated happiness.
"The sea was so clean and calm, and we could walk hundreds of metres far from the shore. It was easy for children to swim and I had a really great time," Hoang Gia Bao said with a big smile.
Thien Cam, 20 kilometres south of Ha Tinh City, is considered one of most beautiful beaches in northern Central Viet Nam. Located in Cam Xuyen District, it has a beautiful landscape with mountains running along the sea, and it attracts visitors for its wild and natural beauty.
The Thien Cam Mountain, 108 metres above sea level, locally known as Ru Cum, has wide and deep caves.
According to legend, when the 13th King Hung travelled to the south, he stopped by the mountain for a rest. That night, the King heard the sounds of the sea mixed with rustling noises from the pine trees, and imagined the sound of musical instruments in the wind.
The next morning, the King and his entourage climbed up the mountain and thought the terrain looked like a four-chord lute. He decided, then and there, to name the mountain "Thien Cam", literally meaning "The heaven's musical instrument".
In 1407, when Chinese Ming troops invaded Viet Nam, Vietnamese King Ho Quy Ly had to escape to the South, but he was arrested by Ming troops at a cave in Thien Cam. Since then, the cave was named Ho Quy Ly Cave. His son Ho Han Thuong was also arrested on a local beach there.
That's why Thien Cam also means "The heaven's seizing".
A quite beach
"Cam has two meanings, one is 'musical instrument' and the other is 'seizing' and it was not just King Ho Quy Ly who was 'seized' here. During the war with the French, many French soldiers were arrested after a bloody battle on September 4, 1953, in our district," said Dang The Tuan, a local restaurant owner.
I have been to so many beaches throughout the country including Do Son, Cat Ba, Sam Son, Cua Lo, Da Nang, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc, but Thien Cam is perhaps among the few beaches that have very pure water, whose waves are calm, and swimming here is a wonderful experience.
According to locals, from April to September, visitors can swim from 5am to 9pm comfortably and safely.
The beach is about 3km between Thien Cam Mountain and Dau Voi (Elephant Head) Mountain.
The mountains and the small En island, far from the shore, ensure that visitors do not feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the sea that often causes humans to feel alone and insecure.
"Visiting Thien Cam during summer, immersed in the blue waters, watching the red and yellow sky in the sunset, walking on white sand beach while the cool breeze blows over our faces, we recognise the tremendous gifts that Nature has given us," said Quynh Huong, a visitor from Ha Noi.
After a dip in the sea, visitors lie on the plain rocks that look like giant beds beside the beach to watch the clouds drifting past.
Dawn in Thien Cam
Getting a taste of cuttlefish, shrimp, crabs and fish served with local fish sauce give visitors the real feeling of Viet Nam's rich seafood resources.
Before dawn, fishing boats come back after a working night and transport fish and other seafood to the nearby village. The baskets of fresh fish are taken by the women to the local morning markets and sent out to other regions in the province. Cuttlefish still wriggle and the shrimp still flip around. There are pots of fish cooked even on the boats by the fishermen.
Local morning market
"The delicious taste of the fish brings back memories of the Ha Tinh people, so each time they return home they eagerly set foot on the beach with the white sand and blue ocean where they enjoy the grilled fish," said Tuan.
Cam Son is a small, old pagoda high on the mountain. It was built during the Ly dynasty time (1009-1225). Surrounded by blue seas and trees, the air here seems more solemn, quiet and pure.
In the 12th century, the pagoda was destroyed by Champa troops, and its precious items including a big bell, which was brought to the South. The bell is said to be in Cu Lao Cham Island in the southern-central province of Quang Nam.
Cam Xuyen District authorities have recently helped the monks restore and expand the pagoda to meet the aspirations of Buddhist followers and visitors.
Situated along the mountain, the deep, long Ho Quy Ly Cave also became a shelter for Vietnamese forces and their arsenal during the anti-French and anti-American wars.
In the 19th century, the French colonialists built a resort in Thien Cam, but during the wars, these were destroyed. Today, the wild sea is being promoted as a tourism area, with a resort and many hotels dotting the beach.
With the white sand, the mountains, the Ho Quy Ly Cave and a large rock with "footprint of a giant", the locals have made Thien Cam a charming place to visit.
We left Thien Cam when night fell, and looking back we saw the lights from the hotels along the beach and from the floating fishing boats like stars in the sea.
Sounds of waves and winds still followed me all the way to Ha Noi, even entering my dreams. The feelings that Thien Cam aroused in me can never fade.