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

RACH GIA

IDD code: ( + 84 ) 77 / pop 180,000
The prosperous capital of Kien Giang province, Rach Gia is a booming port city on the Gulf of Thailand. The population includes significant numbers of both ethnic Chinese and ethnic Khmers. Most travellers give the chaotic centre short shrift, heading straight to the port for boats to Phu Quoc Island. Those who linger, however, might be charmed by the quaint waterfront and sleepy nearby streets, which provide great opportunities for both pleasant strolls and sonic decent seafood.
With its easy access to the sea and the proximity of Cambodia and Thailand, fishing, agriculture and smuggling are profitable trades in this province. The area was once famous for supplying the large feathers used to make ceremonial fans for the Imperial Court.
Information
The provincial tourism authority is Kien Giang Tourist (Du lich Lu Hanh Kien Giang; Tell: 862 081;5 Đ Le Loi; 7am-5pm).
Vietcombank (Tell: 863178; fax 866 243; 2 Đ Mac Cuu) has a 24-hour ATM. On the road towards Long Xuyen, Rach Gia Internet Cafe (152 Đ Nguyen Trung Truc) has a pretty fast connection. The post office (Tell: 873008; 2 Đ Mau Than) is centrally located near the river.
Sights
RACH GIA MUSEUM

The Rach Gia Museum (Tell: 863 727; 21 Đ Nguyen Van Troi; admission free;
7-11am Mon-Fri plus 1-5pm Mon-Wed) was recently restored and is worth a visit to see the Oc-Eo artefacts and pottery.
NGUYEN TRUNG TRUC TEMPLE

This temple (18 Đ Nguyen Cong Tru) is dedicated to Nguyen Trung Truc, a leader of the resistance campaign of the 1860s against the newly arrived French. Among other exploits, he led the raid that resulted in the burning of the French warship Esperance. Despite repeated attempts to capture him, Nguyen Trung Truc continued to fight until 1868, when the French took his mother and a number of civilians hostage and threatened to kill them it he did not surrender. Nguyen Trung Truc turned himself in and was executed by the French in the market place of Rach Gia on 27 October 1868.
The first temple structure was a simple building with a thatched roof; over the years it has been enlarged and rebuilt several times. The last reconstruction took place between 1964 and 1970. In the centre of the main hall is a portrait of Nguyen Trung Truc on an altar.
PHAT LON PAGODA
This large Cambodian Hinayana Buddhist pagoda, whose name means Big Buddha, was founded about two centuries ago. Though all of the three dozen monks who live here are ethnic Khmers, ethnic Vietnamese also frequent the pagoda.
Inside the sanctuary (vihara), figures of the Thich Ca Buddha wear Cambodian- and Thai-style pointed hats. Around the exterior of the main hall are eight small altars.
The two towers near the main entrance are used to cremate the bodies of deceased monks. Near the pagoda are the tombs of about two dozen monks.
Prayers are held here daily from -1am to 6am and 5pm to 7pm. The pagoda, off Đ Quang Trung, is officially open during the seventh, eighth and ninth lunar months (summer season), but guests are welcome all year round.
PHO MINH PAGODA
Only a handful of Buddhist nuns live at Pho Minh Pagoda (cnr Đ Co Bac & Đ Nguyen Van Cu; Chi prayers 3.30-4.30am & 6.30-7.30pm). This small pagoda was built in 1967 and contains a large Thai-style Thich Ca Buddha that was donated by a Buddhist organisation based in Thailand. Near the Thai-style Buddha there is a Vietnamese-style Thich Ca Buddha. The nuns living here reside in a building located behind the main hall. The pagoda is open to visitors and prayers are held daily.
TAM BAO PAGODA
This pagoda ( prayers 4.30-5.30am & 5.30-6.30pm), which dates from the early 19th century, is near the corner of D Thich Thien An and Đ Ngo Quyen; it was last rebuilt in 1913. The garden contains numerous trees sculpted as dragons, deer and other animals.
CAO DAI TEMPLE
This small Cao Dai Temple (189 Đ Nguyen Trung Truc) was constructed in 1969 and is worth a peek if you missed the Great Temple in Tay Ninh.
Sleeping
Phuong Hong Hotel ( 5 Đ Tu Do; r 80,000-180,000d). Although the rooms are small, this family-run spot is clean and friendly, and the quarters are nicely maintained. Some bath rooms are cold-water only.
Hung Tai Hotel (30/4 Đ Le Than Thon; r 120,000-250,000d). A fair range of rooms are on offer here, from windowless cells to bright and airy, green-hued quarters. Most rooms lack hot water.
Nhat Quang Hotel (16 Đ Tu Do; r 130,000-160,000d). Although the walls are thin and the rooms smallish, this is a friendly place on a pleasant street near the river mouth.
Hong Yen Hotel ( 259 Đ Mac Cuu; r 150.000/250,000d). Modern, comfortable rooms are good value. Some rooms have balconies.
Hong Nam Hotel ( Đ Ly Thai To; r 150,000-250.000d). This minihotel offers sparkly, spacious rooms decked out with all the modern comforts. It's near the Rach Gia Trade Centre. Some have balconies.
Hoang Cung Hotel (26 Đ Le Thanh Tong; r 150,000-250,000d) Similar in standard and near the Hong Nam, the pricier rooms at this place have stuffed armchairs, bathtubs and funky bas-reliefs gracing the bedroom walls.
Kim Co Hotel (141 Đ Nguyen Hung Son; r160,000/200,000d).This friendly place has colourful rooms (mint walls, orange cur-tains) and tubs in some bathrooms. Most rooms lack windows.
Gia Thao Hotel (164 Đ Tran Phu; r 160,000-300,000). This well-located hotel has clean, nicely maintained rooms with polished floors. The best rooms have balconies; the worst lack windows.
Hoang Gia 2 Hotel ( 31 Đ Le Than Thon; r180,000-250,000d). Set with nice wood furnishings and bathtubs, the rooms here are in good shape, though some could use more light. There's a lift.
Tan Hoang Phuc Hotel (173 Đ Nguyen Trung Truc; r 180,000-200,000d; A bit out of the way. Tan Hoang Phuc is excellent value for its clean and sizable rooms with attractive furnishings and big windows.
Palace Hotel ( 243 Đ Tran Phu;r US$10-20). Surprisingly, the cheapest rooms on the top floor are the ones with balconies. This place is clean, but some rooms lack windows.
Eating
Rach Gia is known for its seafood, dried cut-tlefish, dried fish slices (ca thieu), fish sauce and black pepper.
Ao Dai Moi (26 Đ LyTu Trong; soups 8,000d; breakfast) The name means 'new ao dai' and Ao Dai Moi is run by a local tailor. The simple place has very good pho and won ton soup in the morning.
Than Binh (2 Đ Nguyen Thai Hoc; mains 10,000-15,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Near Hai Au, this is another popular spot with an enticing assortment of fresh-cooked dishes displayed on a long counter.
Tinh Tam (22 Đ Ly Tu Trong; mains 10,000-20,000d; 7-10am; breakfast, lunch & dinner) This friendly, clean, minimalist place serves good vegetarian fare for breakfast only.
Nam Long (100 Đ Nguyen Hung Son; mains 15.000d; breakfast, tunch& dinner) A hole-in-the wall spot delivering cheap plates of batter fried shrimp and fried noodles
Tan Hung Phat (118 Đ Nguyen Hung Son; mains 15,000-30,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) This friendly newish place has a good selection of fish and seafood dishes. Blue tablecloths lend a homey vibe.
Valentine (35 Đ Hung Vuong; mains 15,000-40,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) This is a cosy spot for coffee or a meal, with faux brickwork and pink, heart-covered columns. If all the frippery makes you giddy, head upstairs for karaoke.
Tay Ho ( 6 Đ Nguyen Du; meals 15,000-50,000d; breakfast, lunch& dinner) Serves excellent Chinese and Vietnamese dishes at reasonable prices.
Quan F28 (28 Đ Le Than Thon; mains 30.000-50.000d; lunch & dinner) With pavement seating and a popular night-time buzz, Quan F28 is the place to go for molluscs - crab, shrimp, snails, blood cockles and the like.
Hai Au (Tell: 863 740; 2 Đ Nguyen Trung Truc; mains 40,000-80,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Popular Hai Au serves decent Vietnamese standards, though its sunny terrace overlooking the Cat Lon River is the real draw.
Cheap, tasty Vietnamese food is sold from food stalls along Đ Hung Vuong between Đ Bach Dang and Đ Le Hong Phong.
Vinh Thanh Van Market, Rach Gia's main market area, stretches east of Đ Tran Phu along Đ Nguyen Thoai Hau. Đ Trinh hoai Duc and Đ Thu Khoa Nghia.
Getting There & Away
AIR
Vietnam Airlines flies between HCMC and Rach Gia twice weekly; for more details. The same flight carries on to Phu Quoc Island .
BOAT
At the western end of Đ Nguyen Cong Tru is Rach Gia Park, where you catch the ferries across to Phu Quoc Island.
Mui Voi ferry terminal (mui means nose and voi means elephant - so named because of the shape of the island) is at the northeastern end of Đ Nguyen Thoai Hau.
Approximately three boats daily leave for Ca Mau (80,000d, three to five hours) from the Rach Meo ferry terminal ( 747 Đ Ngo Quyen), about 2km south of town.
BUS
Buses from HCMC to Rach Gia leave from the Mien Tay bus station; the express bus takes six to seven hours (around 90,000d). Night buses leave Rach Gia for HCMC between 7pm and 11pm.
The Central bus station (Đ Nguyen Binh Khiem) is in town, near the Rach Gia New Trade Center, and has daily express services to Can The (40,000d, three hours, every two hours), Ha Tien (22,000d, three hours, hourly), Long Xuyen, Sa Dec and HCMC. You can catch buses to Hon Chong (25,000d. 21/2 hours, three daily).
There's also a bigger Rach Gia bus station (Ben Xe Rach Soi; 78 Đ Nguyen Trung Truc). 7km south of the city (towards Long Xuyen and Can Tho). Buses link Rach Gia with Can Tho, Dong Thap, Ha Tien, Long Xuyen and HCMC.
CAR & MOTORBIKE
Rach Gia is 92km from Ha Tien, 125km from Can Tho and 248km from HCMC.