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

VINH LONG

IDD code: ( + 84 ) 70 / pop 130,000
A bit more chaotic than other Mekong towns of its size, Vinh Long has noisy, motorbike-filled streets, though its riverfront (and its several restaurants) make for a pleasant escape from the mayhem. Despite the lack of in-town attractions, Vinh Long is the gateway to river islands and some worthwhile sites, including the Cai Be floating market. orchards and homestays - which can be a highlight of a Mekong journey. Vinh Long is the capital of Vinh Long province and situated about midway between My Tho and Can Tho.
Information
Cuu Long Tourist (Tell: 823 616; 1 Ð 1 Thang 5; 7am-5pm) is one of the more capable state-run tour outfits located in the Mekong Delta region. For those interested, it can arrange homestays at an orchard. It also has a small booking office near the Phuong Thuy restaurant, which can rent out bicycles (per day US$2) and motorbikes (per day US$8).
Next to Phung Hoang Motet is an internet cafe (2G Ð Hung Vuong; perhr 3000d). Vietcombank (Tell: 823 109; 143 Ð Le Thai To) has two branches in town and can exchange cash and travellers cheques.
The post office is located on ÐHoang Thai Hieu.
Sights
MEKONG RIVER ISLANDS
What makes a trip to Vinh Long worthwhile is not the town but the beautiful small islands in the river. The islands are given over to agri-culture, especially the growing of tropical fruit, which are shipped to markets in HCMC.
To visit the islands you can charter a boat through Cuu Long Tourist (see left) for around US$10 per person or pay substantially less for a private operator (US$3 to US$4 per hour).
You can also take the public ferry (3000d) to one of the islands and then walk around on your own; however, this isn't as interesting as a boat tour, since you won't cruise the narrow canals.
Some of the more popular islands to visit include Binh Hoa Phuoc and An Binh Island, but there are many others. This low-lying region is as much water as land and houses are generally built on stilts.
CAI BE FLOATING MARKET
This bustling river market (5am-5pm) is worth including on a boat tour from Vinh Long. It is best to go early in the morning. Wholesalers on big boats moor here, each specialising in one or a few types of fruit or vegetable. Customers cruise the market in smaller boats and can easily find what they're looking for, as larger boats hang samples of their goods from tall wooden poles.
One interesting thing you won't see at other floating markets is the huge Catholic cath edral on the riverside - a popular and fantastic backdrop for photographs.
It takes about an hour to reach the market from Vinh Long, but most people make detours on the way there or back to see the canals or visit orchards.
VAN THANH MIEU TEMPLE
A big surprise in Vinh Long is the large and beautiful Van Thanh Mieu Temple (Phan Thanh Gian Temple; Ð Tran Phu) by the river. It's unusual as far as Vietnamese temples go, as it's a Confu-cian temple, which is very rare in southern Vietnam. The front hall honours the local hero Phan Thanh Gian, who led an uprising in 1930 against the French colonists. When it became obvious that his revolt was doomed, Phan killed himself rather than be captured by the colonial army.
The rear hall, built in 1866, has a portrait of Confucius above the altar. The building was designed in the Confucian style and looks like it was lifted straight out of China.
Van Thanh Mieu Temple is 3km southeast of town. Don't confuse it with the much smaller Quoc Cong Pagoda on Ð Tran Phu, which you'll pass along the way.
Tours
Cuu Long Tourist offers a variety of boat tours ranging from three to five hours in length, as well as overnight excursions - though you can also arrange this with local operators. Tour destinations include small canals, fruit orchards, brick kilns, a conical palm hat workshop and the Cai Be Floating Market (above). Plan on about US$25 (per small group) for a day long boat trip, less with independent guides.
Sleeping
See the boxed text 'A Night Upon the Mekong'. for homestay options outside of town. Cuu Long Tourist can help arrange booking and transportation to these charming but rustic spots.
Phuong Hoang I Hotel ( 2H Ð Hung Vuong; r 60,000-250,000d; This fairly new addition to Vinh Long features pleasant rooms with ornate ceilings and tile floors. Bigger rooms upstairs have better views.
NgocTrang Hotel (Tell/fax 832 581; 18Đ Hung Vuong; r 70,000-220,000d; This is good value with clean rooms and friendly service. Top-end rooms are spacious with balconies and lacquered furniture.
Thai Binh Hotel (Tell: 827161; fax 822 213; 202 Ð Le Thai To; r 80,000-120,000d; On the outskirts of town, the Thai Binh is a cheap but fairly grubby option - a last resort.
Phuong Hoang Hotel ( 2R Ð Hung Vuong; r100,000-200,000d; Another branch of Phuong Hoang, it offers similar value and is located nearby.
Van Tram Guesthouse (Tell: 823 820; 4 Ð 1 Thang 5; s/d 150,000-220,000d;The five rooms at this clean, comfortable, family-run place are spacious, with hot water, TV and balconies.
Cuu Long Hotel (1 Đ 1 Thang 5; r old wing US$8-22, new wing US$2-40; This hotel has two branches right on the riverfront. The cavernous old wing has spacious, vaguely dingy rooms with balconies. New-wing rooms are cleaner and more modern but with less character. All rooms have satellite TV and rates include breakfast.
Truong An Tourist Resort (Tell: 823 161; r US$25) Midway on the 8km stretch of road between Vinh Long and the My Thuan bridge, this is a quiet place to stay if you don't mind being away from town. There are cottages here, but not much to do except sit by the river and enjoy the park-like surroundings.
Eating
Com 36 (Tell: 836 290; 36 Ð Hoang Thai Hieu; mains 8000-15,000d; lunch & dinner) A traditional Vietnamese spot with metal tables and a high ceiling. No English menu, but dishes (like pork and stuffed tofu) are displayed behind a glass counter - just point and enjoy.
Tiem Com Chi Thanh (Tell: 823 457; 64 Ð Le Thai To; mains 12,000d; lunch & dinner) Rice steamed in tiny clay bowls is served with excellent Chinese dishes ranging from tofu and shiitakes to frog to pork intestine.
Tai Co (Tell: 824 845; 40A Ð 2 Thang 9; hotpot 30,000d; lunch & dinner) Lau (hotpot) is the speciality here, but Tai Co also serves good Chinese fare. It's divey but popular.
Dong Khanh (Tell: 822 357; 49 Ð 2 Thang 9; mains 30,000-45,000d; lunch & dinner) This place serves a tasty variety of dishes, including octopus with mushrooms and fish hotpot (serves two). Red tablecloths and red-backed chairs give it a somewhat classy feel. English menu.
Thien Tan (Tell: 824 001; 56/1Ð Pham Thai Buong; mains 30,000-50,000d; lunch & dinner) Specialising in barbecued dishes, this is the best eatery in town. Recommended is the fish cooked in bamboo (ca loc nuong tre) and chicken cooked in clay (ga nuong dat set).
Good local point-and-eat com binh dan restaurants (rice plates 8000d) line Ð Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. Other good spots:
Hoa Nang Cafe ( Ð 1 Thang 5; mains 10,000-40,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Riverfront views to enjoy with your iced coffee.
Phuong Thuy (Ð Phan B Chau; mains 20,000-80,000d; lunch & dinner) OK food and fine river views.
Vinh Long Market (Ð 3 Thang 2; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Delicious local fruit and meal vendors.
Getting There & Away
BOAT
Cargo boats sometimes take passengers from Vinh Long all the way to Chau Doc (near the Cambodian border); inquire locally if this appeals to you.
BUS
Frequent buses go between Vinh Long and HCMC (three hours, 50,000d), which leave HCMC from Cholon bus station in District 5, and from Mien Tay bus station. You can also get to Vinh Long by bus from Can Tho (25,000d), My Tho, Tra Vinh, Chau Doc and other points on the Mekong Delta. Vinh Long's bus station is conveniently located smack bang in the middle of town.
CAR & MOTORBIKE
Vinh Long is just off Hwy 1,66km from My Tho, 33km from Can Tho and 136km from HCMC.