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

CHAU DOC

IDD code: ( + 84 ) 76 / pop 102,000
Perched on the banks of the Bassac River, Chau Doc is a pleasant town near the Cam-bodian border with sizable Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities. Its cultural diversity - apparent in the mosques, temples, churches and nearby pilgrimage sites - makes it a fascinating place to explore even if you aren't headed to Cambodia. Taking a boat trip to the Cham communities across the river is another highlight, though its addictive market and peaceful waterfront make fine backdrops to a few days of relaxing before heading out.
Owing to the popular river crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia, many travellers pass through Chau Doc.

information
There's internet service (per hr 4000d; 7am-9pm) in the courtyard of Chau Doc's main post office ( 2 Ð Le Loi). Foreign currency can be exchanged at Incombank ( 68-70 Nguyen Huu Canh).
Though not officially a tourist office, there’s a travel information desk at Vinh Phuoc Hotel (right) where objective, pressure-free travel advice is dispensed. Tours and onward travel arrangements are sold at reasonable prices. Check here first for up-to-date reports on hydrofoils to Phu Quoc Island, border cross ing information, slow cargo boats and bus schedules.
Other agencies where you can buy boat transport to Phnom Penh and book half- and full-day boating trips on the Mekong include Mekong Tours ( 14 Ð Nguyen Huu Canh) and Delta Adventure (Tell: 563 810; 53 Đ Ie Loi).
Sights
CHAU PHU TEMPLE
In 1926 the Chau Phu Temple (Dinh Than Chau Phu; cnr Ð Nguyen Van Thoai & Ð Gia Long) was built to worship the Nguyen dynasty official Thoai Ngoc Hau, who is buried at Sam Mountain. The structure is decorated with both Vietnamese and Chinese motifs. Inside are funeral tablets bearing the names of the deceased and some biographical information about them.
MOSQUES
Domed and arched Chau Giang Mosque, in the hamlet of Chau Giang, serves the local Chain Muslims. To get there, take the car ferry from Chau Giang ferry landing in Chau Doc across the Hau Giang River. From the ferry landing, walk away from the river for 30m, turn left and walk 50m.
The Mubarak Mosque (Thanh Duong hoi Giao), where children study the Koran in Arabic script, is also on the river bank of posite Chau Doc. Visitors are permitted, but you should avoid entering during the calls to prayer (five times daily) unless you are a Muslim.
There are other small mosques in the Chau Doc area. They are accessible by boat, hut you'll need a local guide to find them all.
FLOATING HOUSES
These houses, whose floats consist of empty metal drums, are both a place to live and a livelihood for their residents. Under each house, fish are raised in suspended metal nets: the fish flourish in their natural river habitat; the family can feed them whatever scraps are handy; and catching the fish re quires less exertion than fishing. You can find these houses floating around Chau Doc and get a close-up by hiring a boat (but please be respectful of their privacy). To learn more about the workings of these fish cages.
Sleeping
BUDGET
Vinh Phuoc Hotel (Tell; 866 242; 12 Ð Quang Trung; r US$6-15; A good budget deal, this place is run by an amiable Brit who is an excellent source of local travel information. There's a good in-house restaurant serving Vietnamese and Western food (mains around 30,000d).
Ngoc Phu Hotel ( 17 Ð Doc Phu Thu; r 90,000-150,000d; Even the fan rooms at this large, liveable place have hot water, TV and fridge, The staff here are particularly cheery and help ful. Under renovation at the time of writing, Ngoc Phu may raise rates in coming years.
Thuan Loi Hotel ( 18 Ð Tran Hung Dao; r100,000-190,000d; Over looking the riverside, this pleasant place with communal terrace has friendly staff and a relaxed atmosphere. Fan rooms are very basic, with cold-water bathrooms. Air-conditioned rooms are bright and airy.
Delta Adventure Inn (Nha Khach Long Chau;r 120,000-240,000d; This cosy terracotta-tiled compound sits amid the rice paddies about 4km from Chau Doc. The views of Sam Mountain are lovely from the island cafe-restaurant on the grounds.
Hoa Mai Hotel ( 24/4 Ð Khom Chau Thoi 2; r US$10; 1;This newish place has an elegant facade and clean, spacious rooms opening onto a shared balcony. It's in a quiet setting southwest of the centre.
Song Sao Hotel ( 12-13 Đ Nguyen Huu Canh; r US$11-16; Song Sao has simple, tidy rooms with wood furniture. Some are small and lack natural light; others have balconies.
Trung Nguyen Hotel ( 86 Đ Bach Dang; rUS$12-17; This handsome, polished place has bright and airy rooms, each with a balcony. There's friendly, helpful management, and breakfast is included.
Tai Ngan Hotel ( 11 Ð Nguyen Huu Canh; r150,000- 180,000d). A good-value hotel for most of the rooms. The best are spacious and have a balcony overlooking the plaza.
Hang Chau 2 Hotel (10 Ð Nguyen Van Thoai; r 150,000-280,000d). Spacious, comfortably furnished rooms have nice touches - balconies or leather armchairs. while the 'VIP' room has wood floors.
TOP END
Victoria Chau Doc Hotel ( 32 Ð Le Loi; r US$115-196; internet rates US$92-144) Perched on the riverside, the Victoria is the swishest place in town. All rooms have wood floors, bathtubs and gorgeous decor. The hotel's Bassac Restaurant is superb and the top-floor massage salon offers the best river views around.
Eating
RESTAURANTS
Chau Doc has some excellent restaurants on offer.
Bay Bong (22 Ð Thuong Dang Ie; mains 35,000-45,000d; lunch & dinner) This place specialises in hotpots and soups, as well as fresh fish dishes. Try the ca kho to (stewed fish in a clay pot) or canh chua (sweet-and-sour soup).
Mekong ( 41 Ð Le Loi; mains 35,000-45,000d; lunch & dinner) Just across the road from the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel, Mekong is a popular spot for inexpensive meals. You can dine outdoors in front of an ageing villa.
Bassac Restaurant (Tell: 865 010; 32 Ð Le Loi; mains US$8-14; 6-11 am & 6-11pm) Sophisticated dining is paired with a relaxed colonial ambience at Bassac, located inside the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel. It also has good snack food served at the hotel's poolside Bamboo Bar.
Lam Hung Ky (71 Ð Chi Lang; mains 40,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) This joint serves up good Chinese and Vietnamese food, with misleadingly unappetising menu items like 'instant boiled assorted meats’.
Hong Phat ( 77 Ð Chi Lang; mains 40,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Similar in standard and fare to Lam Hung Ky.
Other options:
Mi Vach Tuong (Ð Thu Khoa Nghia; noodles 7000d; breakfast & dinner) Beside the local basketball court, this simple spot is a good choke for noodle soups. Thanh Tinh (13 Ð Quang Trung; mains 15.000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Great vegetarian food at the well-known place whose name means 'to calm the body down'.
Truong Van (15 Ð Quang Trung; mains 15,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Good Vietnamese food at decent prices.
QUICK EATS
To sample the best sinh to (fruit shakes) in town, look out for the stalls on the corner of Ð Phan Van Vang and Ð Nguyen Van Thoai.
At night, you can also try a variety of cool dessert che (dessert soups) at che stalls on Đ Bach Dang, next to the pagoda.
The Chau Doc Covered Market (Đ Bach Dang) has excellent Vietnamese food (plates 4000d to 10,000d).
Drinking & Entertainment
Chau Doc is a fairly sleepy town and tends to shut down early.
Le Jarai (32 Đ Le Loi; 4-11 pm most nights) Moored on the river behind the Victoria Hotel, this (nonsailing) boat makes a pleasant setting for a cocktail.
Gio Dong (Tell: 563310; QL 91 Quoc lo) An at-tractive waterside spot 2km out of town on the way to Sam Mountain, Gio Drong is an idyllic spot for a drink and is popular with couples.
A dance hall that's popular with the locals, An Tuong 2 (admission 20,000d; 8-11pm, closed Mon & Wed), is nearby. The entry fee includes one drink.
The inviting Lobby Bar in the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel has tropical French-colonial allure, a large drink menu and a pool table.
Getting There & Away
BOAT
No-frills cargo boats run twice weekly between Chau Doc and Ha Tien via the Vinh Te Canal (150,000d, eight to 12 hours), which straddles the Cambodian border; it's an interesting 95km trip. Departures are at 5am from a tiny pier (near 60 Ð Trung Hung Dao).
Cargo boats also travel to/from Vinh Long. For information on travelling into Cambodia .
BUS
The buses from HCMC to Chau Doc leave from the Mien Tay bus station; the express bus can make the run in six hours and costs around 84,000d.
The Chau Doc bus station (Ben Xe Chau Doc) is east of town towards Long Xuyen Buses from Chau Doc leave here for Rach Gia (40.000d, four hours), Ca Mau, Can The, Ha Tien, Long Xuyen, My Tho, HCMC, Soc Trang and Tra Vinh.
CAR & MOTORBIKE
By road, Chau Doc is approximately 117km from Can Tho, 181km from My Tho and 245km from HCMC.
The Chau Doc-Ha Tien road is 100km in length and is in miserable shape, but improve ments were underway at research time. As you approach Ha Tien, the land turns into a mangrove forest that is infertile and almost uninhabited.
This area is considered reasonably safe during the day, but it's not advisable to be out
here after dark due to the risk of robbery in this remote, unlit area.
The drive takes about three hours and it's possible to visit Ba Chuc and Tup Duc en route. If you don't plan to drive yourself, xe om drivers typically charge about US$15.

FISH FARMING & BIO-FUEL
Fish farming constitutes around 20% of Vietnam's total seafood output and is widely practised in An Giang province, in the region near the Cambodian border. The highest concentration of 'floating houses' with fish cages can be observed on the banks of the Bassac River in Chau DOC, near its confluence with the mighty Mekong.
The fish farmed here are two members of the Asian catfish family, basa (Pangasius bocourti) and tra (P hypophthalmus). It is interesting to note that even with two tides a day here, there is no salt water in the river. Around 18,000 tonnes of fish are exported annually, primarily to European and American markets (as well as Australia and Japan), in the form of frozen white fish fillets.
The two-step production cyclo starts with capturing fish eggs from the wild, followed by raising the fish to a marketable size - usually about 1kg. Fish are fed on a kind of dough made by the farmers from cereal, vegetables and fish scraps. The largest cage measures 2000 cubic metres and can produce up to 400 tonnes of raw fish in each 10-month production cycle.
One of the more interesting developments affecting fish-farming was announced in 2006, when Saigon Petrol and An Giang Fisheries Import-Export Company (Agifish) agreed to set up a joint venture to produce bio-fuel from the fat of the tra and basa catfish. Some 400,000 tonnes of the two fish are consumed annually in the Mekong River provinces, and if some of its by-products could be utilised the effects would be groundbreaking. One kilogram of fish fat can yield 1L of bio-diesel fuel, according to one project specialist, meaning some 60,000 tonnes of bio-diesel fuel could be made yearly if all the tra and basa fat could be utilised from the processing plants in the region. Agifish, which sets its initial projections at producing 10,000 tonnes a year, claims the bio-fuel will be more efficient than diesel, that it's nontoxic and will generate far less exhaust. After the factory is up and running (it's slated to be built near Can Tho), Agifish claims it will be a boon to the local economy, to local fish farmers who will earn more money, and even to the environment. Those who've gotten a whiff of nuoc mam (fish sauce) and thought, 'you can power a dump truck on this stuff aren't far off the mark.
Getting Around
Xe loi can be hired around town tor a few thousand dong.
Boats to Chau Giang district (across the Hau Giang River) leave from two docks: vehicle ferries depart from Chau Giang ferry Sanding (Ben Pha Chau Giang), opposite 419 Đ Le Loi; smaller, more frequent boats leave from Phu Hiep ferry landing (Ben Pha FB Phu Hiep), a little further south.
Vehicle ferries to Con Tien Island depart from the Con Tien ferry landing (Ben Pha Con Tien) at the river end of Ð Thuong Dang Le; you can catch boats to Chau Giang and Phu Chau (Tan Chau) from the Ben Do Quoc Doanh ferry landing on Ð Gia Long, opposite the post office.
Private boats (30,000d for a few hours), which are rowed standing up, can be hired from either of these spots, and are highly recommended for seeing the floating houses and visiting nearby Chain minority villages and mosques. Motorboats (50,000d per hour) can be hired in the same area.
Prices for all of the public ferries (per person 500d. motorbike or bicycle 1000d) double at night; bicycles or motorbikes require their own ticket.