VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Mekong Delta

My Tho - Around My Tho - Ben tre - Around Ben Tre - Vinh Long - Tra Vinh - Around Tra Vinh - Sa Dec - Cao Lanh - Around Cao Lanh - Can Tho - Soc Trang Around Can Tho - Around Soc Trang - Bac Lieu - Around Bac lieu - Ca Mau - Around Ca Mau - Nam Can - Long Xuyen - Around Long Xuyen - Chau Doc - Around Chau Doc - Ba Chuc - Tuc Dup Hill - Ha Tien - Around Ha Tien
Hon Chong - Rach Gia - Phu Quoc Island

AROUND CHAU DOC

Phu Chau (Tan Chau) District
Traditional silk making has brought fame to Phu Chau (Tan Chau) district across southern Vietnam. The market in Phu Chau has a selection of competitively priced Thai and Cambodian goods.
To get to Phu Chau district from Chau Doc, take a boat across the Hau Giang River from the Phu Hiep ferry landing, then catch a ride on the back of xe om (about 15,000d) for the 18km trip to Phu Chau district.
Sam Mountain
There are dozens of pagodas and temples, many of them set in caves, around Sam Moun-tain (Nui Sam), which is about 6km southwest of Chau Doc via Ð Bao Ho Thoai. The Chinese influence is obvious and Sam Mountain is a favourite spot for ethnic Chinese (both pilgrims from Vietnam and abroad).
Climbing the peak is a highlight of a visit to Sam Mountain. The views from the top are excellent (weather permitting) and you can gaze over Cambodia. There's a military outpost on the summit, a legacy of the days when the Khmer Rouge made cross-border raids and massacred Vietnamese civilians.
Walking down is easier than walking up, so if you want to cheat, have a motorbike take you to the summit. The road to the top is on the east side of the mountain. You can walk down along a peaceful, traffic-free trail on the north side, which will bring you to the main temple area. The summit road has been decorated with amusement-park ceramic dinosaurs and the like. But there are also some small shrines and pavilions, which add a bit of charm and also remind you that this is indeed Vietnam and not Disneyland.
TAY AN PAGODA
This pagoda (Chua Tay An) is renowned for the fine carving of its hundreds of religious figures, most of which are made of wood. Aspects of the building's architecture reflect Hindu and Islamic influences. The first chief monk of Tay An Pagoda (founded in 1847) came from Giac Lam Pagoda in Saigon. Tay An was last rebuilt in 1958.
The main gate is of traditional Vietnamese design. Above the roof are figures of lions and two dragons fighting for possession of pearls, chrysanthemums, apricot trees and lotus blossoms. Nearby is a statue of Quan Am Thi Kinh, the Guardian Spirit of Mother and Child.
In front of the pagoda are statues of a black elephant with two tusks and a while elephant with six tusks. Around the pagoda are monks' tombs. Inside are Buddha statues adorned with psychedelic disco lights.
TEMPLE OF LADY XU
Founded in the 1820s, the Temple of Lady Xu (Mieu Ba Chua Xu) faces Sam Mountain, not far from Tay An Pagoda. The first building here was made of bamboo and leaves; the last reconstruction took place in 1972.
According to legend, the statue of Lady Xu used to stand at the summit of Sam Mountain. In the early 19th century Siamese troops invaded the area and, impressed with the statue, decided to take it back to Thailand. But as they carried the statue down the hill, it became heavier and heavier, and they were forced to abandon it by the side of thepath.
BORDER CROSSING: VINH XUONG-KAAM SAMNOR
One of the most enjoyable ways of entering Cambodia is via this crossing located just west of Chau Doc along the Mekong River. If coming from Cambodia, get a visa. if exiting, Cambodian visas are available on arrival, but minor overcharging is common.
Numerous agencies in Chau Doc sell boat tickets taking you from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh via the Vinh Xuong border. Slow boats for the trip cost around US$8 to US$10 and take eight hours (leaving around 8am and arriving in Phnom Penh at 4pm).
There are several companies offering faster boats between Chau Doc and Phnom Penh. Hang Chau (Phnom Penh; Tell: 012-883 542) departs Chau Doc at 7am and Phnom Penh at 12 noon and costs US$15. The more upmarket Blue Cruiser (Phnom Penh; Tell: 023 990 441; Chau Doc Tell: 091-401622) pulls out at 8.30am and at 1.30pm respectively, costing US$35. It takes about four hours in eluding a slow border check. More expensive again is the Victoria Hotels express boat, which runs from the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel to Phnom Penh At US$75 per person, it tends to be exclusive to Victoria hotel guests.
Some adventurous travellers like to plot their own course. Catch a minibus from Chau Doc to the border at Vinh Xuong (US$1, one hour). The border posts here are some way apart so hire a moto (US$1) to carry you from building to building to deal with the lengthy bureaucracy. There are separate offices for immigration and customs on both sides of the border, so it can end up taking as much as an hour. Luggage has to be x-rayed on the Vietnamese side of the border. Once officially in Cambodia at Kaam Samnor, arrange a speedboat to Neak Luong (US$2.50 per person, US$15 for the boat, one hour). Once in Neak Luong, change to a local bus (4500r, regular departures) to Phnom Penh, which will terminate at the Central Market.
One day some villagers who were cutting wood came upon the statue and decided to bring it back to their village in order to build a temple for it; but it weighed too much for them to budge. Suddenly, there appeared a girl who, possessed by a spirit, declared her self to be Lady Xu. She announced to them that 40 virgins were to be brought and that they would be able to transport the statue down the mountainside. The 40 virgins were then summoned and carried the statue down the slope, but when they reached the plain, it became too heavy and they had to set it down. The people concluded that the site where the virgins halted had been selected by Lady Xu for the temple construction and it's here that the Temple of Lady Xu stands to this day.
Offerings of roast whole pigs are frequently made here, providing an interesting photo opportunity. The temple's most important festival is held from the 23rd to the 26th day of the fourth lunar month. During this time, pilgrims flock here, sleeping on mats in the large rooms of the two-storey resthouse next to the temple.
TOMB OF THOAI NGOC HAU
A high-ranking official, Thoai Ngoc Hau (1761-1829) served the Nguyen Lords and, later, the Nguyen dynasty. In early 1829, Thoai Ngoc Hau ordered that a tomb be constructed for himself at the foot of Sam Mountain. The site he chose is not far from Tay An Pagoda.
The steps are made of red 'beehive' stone (da ong) brought from the southeastern part of Vietnam. In the middle of the platform is the tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau and those of his wives, Chau Thi Te and Truong Thi Miet. Nearby are several dozen other tombs where his officials are buried.
CAVERN PAGODA
The Cavern Pagoda (Chua Hang, also known as Phuoc Dien Tu) is about halfway up the western side of Sam Mountain. The lower part of the pagoda includes monks' quarters and two hexagonal tombs in which the founder of the pagoda, a female tailor named Le Thi Tho, and a former head monk, Thich Hue Thien, are buried.
The upper section has two parts: the main sanctuary, in which there are statues of A Di Da (the Buddha of the Past) and Thich Ca Buddha (Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha); and the cavern. At the back of the cave behind the sanctuary building is a shrine dedicated to Quan The Am Bo Tat.
According to legend, Le Thi Tho came from Tay An Pagoda to this site half a century ago to lead a quiet, meditative life. When she arrived, she found two enormous snakes, one white and the other dark green. Le Thi Tho soon converted the snakes, which thereafter led pious lives. Upon her death, the snakes disappeared.
Sleeping & Eating
For details on the Delta Adventure Inn between Chau Doc and Sam Mountain, see.
Ben Da MtSam Resort Quoc Lo 91; r 217,000-350,000d; This large complex has pleasant, attractive rooms, some of which overlook a lily-filled water garden. You'll find the standard amenities, plus steam bath, massage and sauna. Breakfast is included and there's an outdoor restaurant.
Long Bo (Khom Vinh Tay1; mains 60,000d) Well worth the trek out here, this excellent grilled-meat restaurant is among Chau Doc's gems. A favourite dish is bo lui xa. which is beef wrapped around lemon-grass. You cook it yourself on the hot coals brought to your table. It's 1km west of Lady Xu Temple.