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

CA MAU

IDD code: ( + 84 ) 780 / pop 176,000
Built on the swampy shores of the Ganh Hao River, Ca Mau is the capital and largest city in Ca Mau province, which was devastated by Typhoon Linda in 1997. It occupies the southern tip of the Mekong Delta - a wasteland for centuries, the area was first cultivated in the late 17th century. The population of Ca Mau includes many ethnic Khmers.
Owing to the boggy terrain, this area has the lowest population density in southern Vietnam. Ca Mau lies in the middle of Vietnam's largest swamp and is known for its powerful mosquitoes.
Ca Mau has developed rapidly in recent years, but the actual town itself is rather dull. The main attractions here are the nearby swamps and forests, which can be easily explored by boat. Bird-watchers and aspiring botanists are reportedly enthralled with the area for its stork-sighting opportunities and swamp ecology. Consult Ca Mau Tourist before undertaking trips to these outlying attractions.
Information
Interesting boat trips - two days and two nights to Nam Can, Dat Mui (Cape Ca Mau), the Da Bac Islands and the U-Minh Forest -can be organised at Ca Mau Tourist (Cong Ty Du lich Minh Hai; Tell: 831238; 3-5 Ð Ly Bon; 8-11am & 1-5pm). Other services available here include foreign-currency exchange, car and boat rentals and visa extensions.
Near the post office, Incombank ( 94 Ð Ly Thuong Kiet) offers foreign-currency exchange and cash advances. There's an ATM located inside the Anh Nguyet Hotel.
In an emergency, seek medical help at Ca Mau Hospital (Benh Vien Ca Mau; 831015;Ð Ly Thuong Kiet).
Sights
CA MAU MARKET
This is a wholesale market (6am-6pm) and not really a place for people to shop. The animal life on display - such as fish and turtles - is cleaned, packed into crates, frozen and sent to HCMC by truck. It's an interesting place to wander around - it certainly bears little resem blance to the supermarkets at home. However, animal rights advocates will not be pleased.
There's also a floating market ( 6am-mid-afternoon) here.
CAO DAI TEMPLE
Though not as large as the one in Tay Ninh, the Cao Dai Temple (Ð Phan Ngoc Hien) is still an impressive place and it's staffed by friendly monks. The temple was built in 1966 and seems to be fairly active.
Sleeping
BUDGET
Than Son Hotel (Tell: 815 825; 23 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r 80,000-230,000d; This slender five-storey hotel has clean, nicely maintained rooms with decent-sized windows.
Ca Mau Hotel (20 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r 120,000-220,000d; Small, trim, well-outfitted rooms here have bathrooms with tubs. Rates include breakfast.
Quoc Nam Hotel ( 23 Ð Phan Boi Chau, r 120,000-250,000d;This is a friendly, low-key affair with clean, simple, pleasant rooms some brighter than others. Its top-floor restaurant overlooks the market.
Ca Mau Trade Union Hotel ( 9 Ð luu Tan Tai; r 130,000-300,000d; Almost opposite the Cao Dai Temple, this hotel has a range of rooms from small, dingy and dark to spacious, bright and clean.
Song Ngoc Hotel ( 28 Ð Hung Vuong; r 150,000-250,000d; Situated on a busy road. Song Ngoc is a newish place with small, clean rooms with kitschy bedspreads. There's a lift.
MIDRANGE
Phuong Nam Hotel (91 Ð Phan Dinh Phung; r/ste 170,000/240,000d; Another good-value place, Phuong Nam is clean and pleasantly furnished. Some rooms have balconies.
QuocTe Hotel (International Hotel, 179 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r 200,000- 700,000d; Boasting a lift, a restaurant and massage service, the Quoc Te is a solid midrange choice. The priciest rooms have big views of the city; breakfast buffet is included.
Anh Nguyet Hotel (207 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r US$19-69; This top midrange option has comfortable, carpeted rooms with trim furnishings, colourful bed spreads and big windows.
Eating
Ca Mau's speciality is shrimp, which are raised in ponds and mangrove forests. Oddly, Ca Mau's best restaurants are in a row on the north end of town.
Pho Xua (Tell: 829 830; 126 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; mains 40,000-50,000d) Featuring many shrimp and fish dishes, Pho Xua is a snazzy place with lush landscaping.
Thanh Truc (Tell: 820 021; 126 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; mains 45,000d) Next door to Pho Xua, this is a good place for hot pot and grilled meat dishes.
There is a cluster of small, cheap roadside restaurants on Ð Ly Bon, at the entrance to the street market. The friendly outdoor restaurant in the Ca Mau Trade Union Hotel is also a good bet.
Getting There & Away
BOAT
Ca Mau has several piers, where you can catch boats around the region. Three to four hydro foils a day travel between Ca Mau and Rach Gia (the boat docks in Rach Soi, about 10km from Rach Gia). This departs from Ferry Pier Can Ganh Hao daily between 7.30am and 1pm (90,000d, three hours). This pier is also where you can catch a speedboat south to Nam Can (one daily, one hour, 40,000d). Ferry Pier B also has departures to Nam Can (one daily, one hour, 40,000d).
Boats to Can Tho (three daily, three to four hours, 97,000d), with a stop in Phung Hiep, depart from Cong Ca Mau pier (Ð Quang Trung), 3km east of town.
Also popular are the (slow) boats to U-Minh Forest (opposite). These depart from Ferry Pier A (two hours, 25,000d). For a guided tour, it's best to inquire at the tourist office.
BUS
The buses from HCMC to Ca Mau leave from Mien Tay bus station. The trip takes 11 hours by regular bus and eight hours by express bus (around 115,000d). There are several daily express buses to HCMC leaving between 5am and 10.30am. Regular daily buses also connect to other towns in the region, including Bac Lieu (24,000d) and Can Tho (60,000d).
The Ca Mau bus station is 2.5km from the centre of town, along Hwy 1 towards HCMC.
CAR & MOTORBIKE
Ca Mau is the end of the line for Hwy 1; it's the southernmost point in Vietnam that's accessible by car and bus. Drivers who boldly attempt to drive on the 'highway' south of Ca Mau will soon find their vehicles sinking into a quagmire of mud and mangroves.
Ca Mau is 178km from Can Tho (three-hours) and 347km from HCMC (eight hours).
Getting Around
There are plenty of water taxis along the canal at the back of Ca Mau Market. For longer trips up river, larger longboats collect at the cluster of jetties just outside the market area. You can either join the throngs of passengers going downriver or hire the whole boat for about 50,000d an hour.