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Ben Tre

BEN TRE

Tel 075 pop 111,800

The picturesque little province of Ben Tre, just south of Mytho, consists of several large island in the mouth of the Mekong River. The area gets few visitors because it’s off the main highway. The provincial capital is also called Ben Tre, and is a friendly sort of place with a few old buildings near the banks of the Mokong.

Ben Tre is a good place for boat trip and unlike Mytho, Vinh Long and Can Tho, the People’s Committee doesn’t have a monopoly on the boat tour business, so prices have remained low.

Ben Tre is famous for coconut candy (keo dua). Many local women work in small factories making coconut sweets, spending their days boiling large cauldrons of sticky mixture, before rolling it out and cutting sections off into squares and wrapping them into paper for sale.

Ben Tre tourist (tel 829618; fax 822440; 65 Đ Dong Khoi) also has a branch office adjcent to the Dong Khoi Hotel.

Ben Tre has two Internet Cafe, one on Đ Hung Vuong and the other on Đ Tran Quoc Tuan.

Vien Minh Pagoda

Right in the centre of Ben Tre, this is the head office of the Buddhist Association of ben Tre province. Though the history of the pagoda is vague, the local monks say it is over 100 years old. The original structue was made of wood, but it was torn down to make way for the present building. reconstruction took place from 1951 to 1958, using bricks and concrete.

An interesting feature of Vien Minh Pagoda is a large white statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat (Goddess of Mercy) set in the front couryard. The Chinese calligraphy that adorns the pagoda was performed by an old monk. None of the current monks at the pagoda can read Chinese, though some of the local worshippers can.

Truc Giang Lake

Truc Giang lake, a small but pleasant lake fronting in paddle boats. The surrounding park is too small for much strolling.

Places to Stay

Phuong Hoang Hotel (tel 821385; 28 Hai Ba Trung; rooms 120,000-140,000d) is a 10 room minihotel that’s decent value.

Trade Union Hotel (tel 825082; 50 Đ Hai Ba Trung; air-con rooms 130,000-150,000d) is a bit worse for wear, but it’s one of the cheapest places in town.

Hung Vuong Hotel (tel 822408; 166 Đ Hung Vuong; old-wing rooms US$10, newwing rooms US$15-37) was recently renovated and looks nice. All rooms here have air-con, but those in the old wing have cold water only. It also has a big restaurant.

Ben Tre Hotel (tel 822223; 8/2 Đ Tran Quoc Tuan; air-con rooms US$13-23) is one of the better places in town, and all rooms have hot water. There’s an Internet Cafe nearby.

Dong Khoi Hotel (tel 822240; 16 Đ Hai Ba Trung, doubles with air-con US$20-35) is Ben Tre’s plushest accommodation. Take a peek at the hotel’s gift shop – the souvenir spoons, chopsticks and coconut-wood ashtrays are certainly beautiful. This hotel has the most upmarket restaurant in town. On Saturday night a band entertains the guest.

Places to Eat

Nam Son (tel 822888; 40 Đ Phan Ngoc Tong; mains 15,000-30,000d) is popular for Vietnamese fare and usually packed with locals eating roast chicken and dringking draft beer.

Dang and Thuy San, both on Đ 30 thang 4 as you enter town, are two other places to consider for Vietnamese fare, fresh river fish and seafood.

There is a floating restaurant anchored on the south side of town near the market. The food and decor is unremarkable, but you can’t beat the location.

If you’re travelling on the cheap, just head over to the market, which has plenty of dood stalls where you can fill up for peanuts.

Getting there & Away

As this is an island province, crossing the Mekong River is a prerequisite for reaching Ben Tre. Slow as it is (about 45 minutes each way), the Mytho – Ben Tre crossing is fastest option. There are other possible ferry crossing further south but these are so slow and unreliable that you shouldn’t count on them. Ferry crossing are much quicker if you’re travelling by motorbike (as opposed to car) since there are numeroussmall boats that can take you across the river.

Public buses stop at the bus station east of the town centre on Đ Doan Hoang Minh. Private minibuses also make the Ben Tre – HCMC run daily. They operates on no fixed schedule, so you’ll need to inquire locally. Try asking around the market, or by the petrol station on Đ Dong Khoi.

Getting Around

Ben Tre Tourist has a high speed boat for rent, though it’s not cheap at US$35 per hour. It can hold about eight people. Slower and larger boats can also be rented here, but other bargains can be negotiated at the public pier near the market. Here you can figure on about 25,000d per hour, with a minimum of two hours cruising the local canals. Check with the boat drivers who hang around near the end of the footbridge.

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