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

HON CHONG

IDD code: ( + 84 ) 77
This small and secluded village beach resort has the most scenic stretch of coastline on the Mekong Delta mainland. It's a peaceful place most of the year and sees few foreign travellers. The big attractions here are Chua Hang Grotto, Duong Beach and Nghe Island. Though they are a far cry from the stunning 3000-plus islands and grottoes of Halong Bay, the stone formations here are indeed photogenic. Aside from the three gargantuan cement factories that spew out smoke along the road from Ha Tien, the coastal drive there boasts some beautiful landscape.
Hon Chong lies along both sides of the road from Ba Hon, curving along the coast. Rustic and midrange hotels dot the road, which terminates at Chua Hang Grotto and the temple there.
Chua Hang Grotto
Chua Hang Grotto is entered through a Buddhist temple set against the base of a hill. The temple is called Hai Son Tu (Sea Mountain Temple; admission 2000d). Visitors light incense and offer prayers here before entering the grotto itself, whose entrance is located behind the altar. Inside is a statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat.
Duong Beach
Running north from Chua Hang Grotto, this beach (Bai Duong) is named for its long-needled pine trees (duong). The southern area can get busy with Vietnamese tourists - and their beloved karaoke - but otherwise the 3km stretch of coast is quite tranquil.
Although this is easily the prettiest beach in the Mekong Delta, don't expect any white sand. The waters around the delta contain heavy concentrations of silt (and cement dust), so the beach sand tends to be hard while in the water it's muddy. Still, the water is reasonably clear here and this is the only beach south of HCMC (excluding those on Phu Quoc Island) that looks appealing to swimmers. The beach is known for its spec tacular sunsets.
From the busy southern end of the beach (near Chua Hang Grotto), you can see remnants of Father and Son Isle (Hon Phu Tu) several hundred metres offshore; it was said to be shaped like a father embracing his son -though the father was washed away in 2006. Boats can be hired at the shore to row out for a closer look.
Nghe Island
This is the most beautiful island in the area and is a favourite pilgrimage spot for Buddhists. The island contains a cave temple (Chua Hang) next to a large statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat, which faces the sea. The area where you'll find the cave temple and statue is called Doc Lau Chuong.
Finding a boat to the island is not too dif - ficult, though it is much cheaper if you round up a group. Inquire at the Hon Trem Guest - house (below). You can also rent a speed boat ibr the day for 900,000d from the Tan Phat restaurant (right). The boat seats up to 20, and the captain can take you on a tour of four islands in the area. Tourists are not permitted to stay on the island.
Sleeping
The hotels are completely booked when Buddhists arrive to worship 15 days before and one month after Tet. Another worship deluge occurs in March and April. The following ho-tels are listed in order, as you approach them on the main (and only) road into town.
Green Hill Guesthouse (Tell: 854 369; 905 Hon Chong, d US$14-20; This lovely villa on die hill is the first place you'll see upon arriving in Hon Chong. Perched on a knoll overlooking Duong Beach, this friendly, family-run guest house has comfortable, spacious rooms. The 2nd-storey balcony, festooned with orchids and bougainvillea, has great views. Try booking the top-floor room, with its neat conical ceiling and private terrace.
An Hai Son Resort ( Bai Gieng Hamlet; r240.000-300.000d; Some 500m from Green Hill Guesthouse, this resort has clean, pleasantly furnished rooms amid a nicely landscaped setting. Villa rooms are smaller, cheaper and nicer, with stylish furniture. Rooms on the 2nd storey have sea views. There's a tennis court and massage services; breakfast included.
My Lan Hotel ( r 150,000-210,000d; Another 150m from An Hai, this hotel has a range of rooms, some so white as to be on the clinical side, while others are roomy with decent windows and even shower curtains in the bathrooms!
Diem My Hotel (1022 Hamlet 3; r 60,000-160,000d; About 200m further. Diem My is one of Hong Chong's cheapest options. Expect basic rooms, light pink walls and a somewhat musty smell. The bathrooms are cold-water only.
Binh An Hotel (1030 Hamlet 3; r 80,000-200,000d; Up the road (another 200m), Binh An is a fine but ageing place with gardens. The old-wing fan rooms are grotty but cheap; new-wing rooms are nicer with air-con.
Hon Trem Guesthouse ( r/bungalow 400,000/450,000d). Hong Chong's best overnight is found 300m past Binh An. This recently overhauled guest house has attractive, light and airy bungalows with artwork on the walls, private terraces and sizable bathtubs. Guesthouse rooms are handsomely designed but lack the tine views. There's also a good seafood restaurant (mains 60.000d to 90.000d) overlooking the water. and you can book spa services and boat tours here. Breakfast included.
Huong Bien Guesthouse (Hamlet 3 r 150,000d; The last place in town before reaching the Chua Hang Grotto, this guest house has trim rooms with green tile floors, small windows and cold-water bathrooms. It's run by a friendly young family. Across the street are a few basic restaurants.
Eating
Tan Phat (Tell: 759 943; Hamlet 3; mains 30,000-60,000d; Just outside of Hon Chong (400m from Green Hill Guesthouse) on the road to Ha Tien, this excellent restaurant serves filling seafood dishes, which you can enjoy on the back deck above the water.
Hong Ngoc (coconuts around 3000d), just near the en -trance gate to the Chua Hang Grotto, is a good place to sample delicious Ha Tien coconuts.
Aside from special orders prepared at your hotel, there are thatch-roof restaurants (mains 10,000d-40,000d) along the beach and food stalls (mains around 10,000d) near the entrance of Chua Hang Grotto. For only a few dollars, you can point to one of the live chickens, which will be summarily executed and barbecued for you.
Getting There & Away
Chua Hang Grotto and Duong Beach are 32km from Ha Tien towards Rach Gia. The access road branches off the Rach Gia-Ha Tien highway at the small town of Ba Hon, which is just west of the cement factory at Kim Luong. Buses can drop you off at Ba Hon, from where you can hire a motorbike to get around.
There's also a direct bus service from Rach Gia to Hon Chong (25,000d, 21/2 hours, three daily).It departs from the Ben Xe Ha Tien bus station (Đ 30 Thang 4) in Rach Gia and in Hon Chong from outside the Huong Bien Guesthouse.