The island of Tam Hai, just off the coast of central Vietnam, has always offered the lure of unspoilt beaches and fresh seafood.
But despite its natural charms, the island has long been overshadowed by other, more developed sections of the country’s 3,200km coastline, like Nha Trang and Mui Ne.
However, a recent project by university students from Danang looked to change that. Over several weeks in June and July last year, they gave Tam Hai a colourful makeover, painting murals – inspired by daily life on the island – all over the village.
Vibrant, photo-worthy imagery now greets visitors at every corner. From fishermen returning from sea to children splashing in the ocean, the island’s maritime culture is now writ large in bright pastels.
“We wanted to help develop tourism and get more people to visit,” explains Tran Quang Minh, one of the students from the University of Science and Technology in Danang. “We have all been to Tam Hai before and recognise its tremendous potential. There’s a wealth of natural beauty here.”
Indeed, the paintings have helped raise the profile of Tam Hai’s other attractions: temple ruins built by the diasporic Cham people, impressive snorkelling during the calmer summer months and a whale graveyard containing the bones of dead cetaceans.
“When the murals were completed, I definitely noticed an increase in visitors,” says Tran Van Ngo, a 50-year-old fisherman from the village. “Before, it was mostly relatives or people from the surrounding area who came. Now, we have people from far away coming to enjoy the island life.”
Tam Hai lies roughly 70km south of Danang. Just take Highway 1A and it’s a short ferry ride from the sleepy fishing village of Tam Thanh, which underwent a similar transformation in 2016. That successful project, carried out by the Korea Foundation’s Art for a Better Community programme, first inspired the students to give Tam Hai a facelift.
As public art becomes a simple way to elevate communities, travellers can expect to stumble onto stunning murals elsewhere in the region, too.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.