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

HA TIEN

IDD code: ( + 84 ) 77 / pop 93,000
Lying just 8km from the Cambodian border, Ha Tien is on the Gulf of Thailand and has a vastly different feel from other delta settlements. All around the area are lovely, towering limestone formations, which support a network of caves, some of which have been turned into temples. Plantations of pepper trees cling to the hillsides, On a clear day, Phu Quoc Is-land is easily visible to the west. The town itself has a sleepy charm, with crumbling colonial villas and a colourful riverside market, It sees only a handful of visitors, who come to explore the unique sights out of town.
Ha Tien was a province of Cambodia until 1708. In the face of attacks by the Thais, the Khmer-appointed governor, a Chinese immigrant named Mac Cuu turned to the Vietnamese for protection and assistance, Mac Cuu thereafter governed tills area as a fiefdom under the protection of the Nguyen Lords. He was succeeded as ruler by his son, Mac Thien Tu-During the 18th century the area was invaded and pillaged several times by the Thais. Rach Gia and the southern tip of the Mekong Delta came under direct Nguyen rule in 1798.
During the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian forces repeatedly attacked the Vietnamese territory and massacred thousands of civilians here. The entire populations of Ha Tien and nearby villages (in fact, tens of thousands of people) fled their homes. Also during this period, areas north of Ha Tien (along the Cambodian border) were sown with mines and booby traps, which have yet to be cleared.
Though the govern merit has designated Ha lien a 'frontier economic zone', the border crossing here is not yet open to tourists. This may change in upcoming years. Check with travel agencies in Ha Tien.
Information
The post office Tell: 852190; 3 Ð To Chau; 7am-10pm) also has internet access for 4000d per hour.
There's an Agricultural Bank (Ngan Hang Nong Nhiep; 852 055; fax 851 888; 37 Đ Lam Son) near the market area.
Sights
MAC CUU FAMILY TOMBS
On a low ridge not far from town are the Mac Cuu Family Tombs (Lang Mac Cuu). They are known locally as Nui Lang, the Hill of the Tombs. Several dozen relatives of Mac Cuu are buried here in traditional Chinese tombs decorated with figures of dragon phoenixes, lions and guardians.
The largest tomb is that of Mac Cuu him-self; it was constructed in 1809 on the orders of Emperor Gia Long and is decorated with finely carved figures of Thanh Long (Green Dragon) and Bach Ho (While Tiger). The tomb of Mac Cuu’s first wife is Hanked by ragons and phoenixes. At the bottom of the ridge is a shrine dedicated to the Mac family.
TAM BAO PAGODA
Founded by Mac Cuu in 1730 is the Tam Bao Pagoda (Sac Tu Tam Bao Tu; 328 Ð Phuong Thanh; prayers 8-9am & 2-3pm). It is now home to several Buddhist nuns. In front of the pagoda is a statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat standing on a lotus blossom in the middle of a pond. Inside the sanctuary, the largest statue on the dais is of A Di Da, the Buddha of the Past. It is made of bronze, but has been painted. Outside the building are the tombs of 16 monks.
Near Tarn Bao Pagoda is a section of the city wall dating from the early 18th century.
PHU DUNG PAGODA
This pagoda (Phu Cu Am Tu; players 4-5am & 7-8pm) was founded in the mid- 18th century by Mac Thien Tich's wife, Nguyen Thi Xuan. It is now home to one monk.
In the middle of the main hall is a statue of nine dragons embracing a newly born Thich Ca Buddha. The most interesting statue on the main dais is a bronze Thich Ca Buddha from China. On the hillside behind the main hall are the tombs of Nguyen Thi Xuan and one of her female servants, neaiby are four monks' tombs.
Behind the main hall is a small temple, Dien Ngoc Hoang, dedicated to the Taoist Jade Ern peror. The figures inside arc of Ngoc Hoang;flanked by Nam Tao, the Taoist God of the Southern Palar Star and the God of Happiness (on the right); and Bac Dao, the Taoist God of the Northern Polar Star and the God of Longevity (on the left). The statues are made of papier-mache moulded ever bamboo frames.
To get to Phu Dung Pagoda, turn off Đ Phuong Thanh at No 374.
THACH DONG CAVE PAGODA
Also known as Chua Thanh Van, this is a sub terranean Buddhist temple 4km from town.
To the left of the entrance is the Stele of Hatred (Bia Cam Thu), which commemorates the massacre by the Khmer Rouge of 130 peo- pie here on 14 March 1978.
Several of the chambers contain funerary tablets and altars to Ngoc Hoang, Quan The Am Bo Tat and the two Buddhist monks who founded the temples of this pagoda. The wind here creates extraordinary sounds as it blows through the grotto's passageways. Openings in several branches of the cave afford views of nearby Cambodia.
ĐONG HO
The name translates as East Lake, but Dong Ho is not a lake but an inlet of the sea. The 'lake' is just cast of Ha Tien, and is bounded to the east by a chain of granite hills known as the Ngu Ho (Five Tigers) and to the west by the To Chan hills. Dong Ho is said to be most beautiful on nights when there is a full or almost-full moon. According to legend, on such nights fairies dance here.
HA TIEN MARKET
Ha Tien has an excellent market along the To Chau River. It's well worth your while to stop here - many of the goods are from Thailand and Cambodia, and prices are lower than in HCMC. Cigarette smuggling is particularly big business.
Sleeping
BUDGET
Phao Dai Hotel (Tell: 851849, r 80,000-200,000d). On a hill in the far southwest of town, the Phao Dai is a relatively quiet place. Air-con rooms have ocean views, and the best rooms open onto shared terraces. Facilities include massage, a karaoke bar and a restaurant.
Ngoc Yen Hotel (Tell: 952 953; fax 952 955; 12 Ð Khu Trung Tarn Thuong Mai; r 120,000-220,000d; This is good value with its newish feel and clean, modern rooms set with polished wood furniture. Some windows open only onto the corridor.
Bao Tarn Hotel (Tell: 952 944; fax 952 945; 23 Ð Khu Trung Tarn Thuong Mai; r 140,000-170,000d; This friendly, new spot has tidy, nicely outfitted rooms with green tile floors. Upper-storey rooms have balconies. As elsewhere some rooms lack windows.
Tu Anh Hotel (Tell: 852 622; fax 951703; 170 Ð Mac Thien Tich; r 150,000-250,000d; With windows and air-conditioning in every room, Tu Anh is one of Ha Tien's best newcomers. It has clean and polished rooms and friendly service.Other budget choices:
Kieu Oanh Guesthouse (Tell: 852 748; 20 Đ To Chau; r 50,000-80,000d; A friendly, family-run place with battered rooms. Cold-water bathrooms. Sao Mai Hotel (Tell: 852 740; Đ Tran Cong An; r 80,000-150.000d; A nice, clean place south of the floating bridge. Ocean views from top-floor rooms.
MIDRANGE
Hai Van Hotel (Tell: 852 001; fax 851 685; 55 Đ Lam Son; r 70,000-220,000d). Hai Van offers a range of rooms from cheap and basic fan-cooled rooms (with cold-water bathrooms) to comfortably set rooms in the new wing with balconies. There's a lift.
Kim Du Hotel (Tell: 851 929; fax 852 119; 14 Đ Phuong Thanh; r120,000-200,000d; Rooms at this decent but ageing option have big windows and are in OK shape. The in-house restaurant is good. It has a lift.
Du Hung Hotel (Tell: 951 555; fax 852 267; 17A Đ Tran Hau; r 180,000-250,000d; Another new, good-value option with clean rooms and dark wood furniture. Lift available.
Hai Yen Hotel (Tell: 851580; fax 851889; 15 Đ To Chau; r 200,000-350,000d; Offers spotless rooms with colourful bedspreads and decorative ceilings. Some rooms lack windows; others (like room 517) have fine river views.
Ha Tien Hotel (Tell: 952 093; fax 951102; 368 Tran Hau; r 300,000-400,000d; Ha Tien's finest hotel has comfortable, carpeted rooms with dark wood furniture, though some rooms lack windows. An inviting, open-sided restaurant fronts the place.
Eating & Drinking
Ha Tien's speciality is an unusual variety of coconut that can only be found in Cambodia and this part of Vietnam. These coconuts contain no milk, but the delicate flesh is delicious. Restaurants all around the Ha Tien area serve the coconut flesh in a glass with ice and sugar,
Hai Van (Tell: 850 344; 4 Đ Tran Hau; mains 10,000-15,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Dishes up good Vietnamese, Chinese and Western meals.
Xuan Thanh (Tell: 852197; 20 Đ Tran Hau; mains 15,000-40,000d; lunch & dinner) Set with chrome chairs opposite the market, this cheery place serves tasty plates of fish, shrimp and other Vietnamese fair.
Tu Anh (Tell: 852 622; 170 Đ Mac Thien Tich; mains 20,000-40,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) The restaurant of this decent hotel also serves excellent dishes, including delicious seafood with noodles.
Huong Bien (Tell: 852 072; 974 Đ To Chau; mains 20,000-30,000d) Another excellent eatery.
Thuy Tien (Tell: 851 828; Đ Dong Ho; coffee 3000d) For an iced coffee against the lakeside scenery, stop by this low-key cafe.
For livelier backdrop try the cates along the waterfront.
Getting There & Away
BOAT
Passenger terries dock at the ferry terminal, which is not far from the To Chau Hotel near the floating bridge. Daily ferries depart to Phu Quoc (55,000d, 8.30am), but these are worn, wooden boats that may not be seaworthy. It's wise to take a more reliable hydrofoil from Rach Gia.
BUS
Buses from HCMC to Ha Tien leave three times daily from the Mien Tay bus station; the trip (around 110,000d) takes eight to 10 hours.
Ha Tien bus station (Ben Xe Ha Tien) is on the other side of the floating toll bridge from the centre of town. Buses leave from here to HCMC, Can Tho (67,000d, five hours, three daily), Chau Doc (41,000d, four hours, four daily) and Rach Gia (22,000d, two hours, frequent) among other destinations.
CAR & MOTORBIKE
Ha Tien is 92km from Rach Gia, 95km from Chau Doc, 206km from Can Tho and 338km from HCMC.