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Tra Vinh


Tel: 074 – Pop 70.000

Bordered by the Tien and Hau branches of the Mekong, Tra Vinh’s location on a peninsula makes it some what isolated. Getting there is a straight up and back trip, because no car ferries cross the rivers here ( motor-bikes can be ferried by small boats). Western tourisets are few, through there are several very worthwhile things to see here.

There are about 300,000 ethnic Khmer living in Tra Vinh province. At first glancem they might seem to be an invisible minority since they all speak fluent Vietnamese and there is nothing outwardly distinguishing about their clothing or lifestyle. However, digging a little deeper quickly reveals that Khmer culture is alive and well in thispart of Vietnam. There are over 140Khmer pagodas in Tra Vinh Province, compared with 50 Vietnamese and five Chinese pagodas. The pagodas have schools to teach the Khmer language-most of the locals in Tra Vinh can read and write Khmer at leat as well as Vietnamese.

Vietnam’s Khmer minority are almost all followers of Theravada Buddhism. If you ‘ve visited monasteries in Cambodia, you may have observed that Khmer monks are not involved in growing food and rely on donations from the strictly religious locals. Here in Tra Vinh, Vietnamese guides will proudly point out the monks’ rice harvest as one of the accomplishments of liberation. To the Vietnamese government, nonworking monks were parasites. The Khmers don’t necessarily see it the same way, and they continue to donate fonds to the monasteries Surreptitionsly.

Between the ages of 15 and 20, most boys set aside a few months or years to live as monks ( they decide themselves on the length of service). Khmer monks can eat meat, though they cannot kill animals.

There is also a small but active Chinese community in Tra Vinh, one of the few remaining in the Mekong Delta region.

One Pagoda

The Chua Tau; cnr Pham Thai Buong str. & Tran Quoc Tuan str) is a very ornate, brightly painted building. Rare for the Mekong Delta region, this is a 100% Chinese pagoda and is still a very active place of worship. The red – faced god on the altar is deified general Quan Cong ( In Chinese, Guangong, Guandi or Guanyu). Quan Cong is believed to offer protection against war and os based on a historical figure, a soldier of the 3rd century. You can read more about him in the Chinese classic The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

The Ong Pagoda was founded in 1556 by the Fujian Chinese Congregation, but has been rebuilt a number of times. Recent visitors from Taiwan and Hong Kong have contributed money for th pagoda’s restoration, which is why it is in such fine shape.

Ong Met pagoda


The chief reason for visiting this large Khmer pagoda is that it;s the most accessible, being right in the centre of town. The monks at Ong Met Pagoda are friendly and happy to show you around the interior.

Chim Pagoda

An interesting monastery. Chim Pagoda sees few visitors because you have to wind your way along dirt roads to find it. It’s actually just 1km off the main highway to Vinh Long in the southwest part of town. Probably the best way to get there, if you don’t have your own wheels, is to get a locall to take you on a motorbike.

The friendly monks here claim that the pagoda was build 500 years ago, though the present structure is obviously much newer. There are about 20 monks in residence here.

Ba Om Pond & Ang Pagoda

Known as Ao Ba Om ( Square lake), this is a spiritual site for the Khmers and a picnic and drinking sport for local Vietnamese. The square-shaped pond is surrounded by tall trees and is pleasant if not spectocular.

More interesting is the nearby Ang Pagoda, a beautifull and venerable Khmer-style pagoda. There is also an interesting Khmer Minority People’s Museum of Khmer culture on the far side of the lake, through little is labelled in English. Opening hour are irregular/

Ba Om Pond is 7km southwest from Tra Vinh along the highway towards Vinh Long.

Uncle Ho Temple

Sometimes Vietnam throws something to tally unexpected at you. Tra Vinh chips in with the Uncle Ho Temple dedicated, of cause, to the late president Ho Chi Minh. Perhaps Tra Vinh’s enterprising people’s comiittee was looking for a way to distinguish its fine town and put it on the tourist circuit. if so, it may have succeeded althogh no monks have taken up residence, “Worshippers” continue to flock here. A local tourist pamphlet calls the temple the “ pride of Tra Vinh’s inhabitants’. Ho himself would no doubt be horrified.

The Uncle Ho Temple is located within the Long Duc commune, 5km north of Tra Vinh town.

Boat tours

The narrow Long Binh River meanders southward from Tra Vinh Town for over 10km before reaching a spillway. which was built to prevent sea water from intruding at high tide. Otherwise, the salt would contaminate the river and kill the crips.

It is possible to hire boats from the pier on the east side of town to take you downstream to the spillway. Of caurse, Tra Vinh Tourist can also book you onto there trips. which typically take about 1h30munite by

speedboat, longer for a slower boat.

Tours can also be arranged to Oyster Island ( Con Ngao), an offshore mud flat that supports a small continget of oyster farmers. Tra Vinh Tourist offers trips for US$100 per boat regardless of group size. though you should be able to negotiate something cheaper with boat drivers at the pier.

Place to Stay

Huong Tra Hotel ( Tel: 853182, Ly Thuong Kiet str. Rooms with fan & Shared toilet US$ 5, with air-con & attached bath US$ 10-12 is Tra Vinh’s dingiest budget place. It’s fair to say you get what you pay for.

Thanh Binh Hotel ( Tel: 858906; Le Thanh Ton; rooms with fan/air-con US$6/10) is slightly better than Huong Tra, though still seedy.

Phuong Hoang Hotel ( Tel: 852270, Le Thanh TOn str. Singles with Fan US$ 8-10, doubles with air-con US$ 12-17) Is a decent-looking place. All rooms have private bath.

Thanh Tra Hotel ( tel: 853621, fax 853769, Pham Thai Buong str, Rooms US$ 15-27) is where most of the tour groups are put up for the night.

Cung Long Hotel ( tel: 862615, 999 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai str) was under reconstruction at the time of writing.

Place ti Eat

Nguyen Thai ( tel: 852145, 88 Le Loi street) is a good choice for Vietnamese and seafood there is a wide variety of choice

Phuong Nam ( Tel 853511, Chau Van Tiep) prepares excellent barbecued and clay – pot dishes.

Vi Hung ( Dien Bien Phu Str.) is a very cheap place doing simple rice dishes.

Viet Hoa ( Tel: 8360646, 80 Tran Phu str), run by a friendly Chinese Family, is one of the best places to eat in town.

Tuy Huong ( Dien Bien Phu str) Is another good place to sample local Vietnamese fare.

Ditto for Chi Thanh ( 105 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai), Huong Que ( 16 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia str) and Minh Ky ( 9 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia str) nearby.

Getting there & Away

Tra Vinh is 65km from Vinh Long and 205km from HCMC, Either Vinh Long or Cantho would be logical places to catch buses to Tra Vinh.


Chua Co

Chua Co is a particularly interesting Khmer monastery because the grounds form a bird sanctuary, several types of stork and ibis arrive here in large numbers just before sunset to spend the night. Of cause, there are many nests here and you must take care not to disturb them.

Chua Co is 43 km from Tra Vinh, Travel 36km to Tra Cu, and then follow the sandy road for 7km to the monastery.

Luu Cu

Some ancient ruins are to be found at Luu Cu, south of Tra Vinh near the shores of the Hau Giang River. The ruins include brick foundations similar to those found at Cham Temples. There have been a series of archaeological digs here and the site is now protected. Luu Cu attracts a large number of French tourists. The site is 10km from the town to Tra Cu ( 36km from Tra Vinh)

Ba Dong Beach

This yellow- sand beach is not bad compared with other “beaches” in the Mekong Delta, But the main attaction here is the peace and quiet ( it sees very few visitors).



Tel: 067 + Pop 101,800

The former capital of Dong Thap province, Sa Dec gained some small fame as the setting for the Lover, a film based on the novel by Margurite Duras. Two of the classic French villas used in the film can be seen across the river from the outdoor market area.

Sa Dec is famous for its many nurseries that cultivate flowers and bonsid trees. The flowers are picked almost daily and transported fresh to shops in HCMC. There nurseries are a major sightseeing attraction for domestic tourists, especially around the Tet festival holiday.
Groups doing a whirlwind tours of the Mekong Delta often make a lunch stop here and drop in on the nurseries.

Huong Tu Pagoda

Thu Huong Tu Pagoda ( Chua Co Huong Tu) is of classic Chinese design. A bright white statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat standing on a pedestal adorns the grounds. Don’t confuse this place with the adjacent Buu Quang Pagoda. which is somewhat less glamorous.


The nurseries ( Vuon Hoa) operate year round throgh they are practivally stripped bare of their flowers just before Tet. You’ve welcome to have a look around, but don’t pick any f

lowers unless you plan on buying them. Photography is permitted-indeed, the flower farmers are quite used to it.

The nurseries dont’ belong to one person. There are many small operators here, each with a different speciality. The most famous garen is called the Tu Ton Rose Garden, which has over 500 different kinds of roses in 50 different shades and colours/

Uncle Ho Statue

We’re not being facetious-they really do call it’uncle Ho statue” . Ho Chi Minh didn’t live in Sa Dec, but his father did. To commemorate this bit of historical consequence, a large statue of Ho Chi Minh (But not his father!)

has been erected a few kilometres west of town. You’ll need a motorbike to get out there, as it’s probably too far for a cycle, unless you have a lot of time and patience. The statue is along the route to ther nurseries. So you can take in both sights on the same journey.

Place to Stay

Not many foreigners overnight in Sa Dec because nearby Cao Lanh, Long Xuyen and Vinh Long all tend to Siphon off the tourists. Still, Sa Dec is a pleasant, if not very exciting, place to spend an evening

Nguyen Phong guesthouse ( tel: 866515 A10 Tran Hung Dao, rooms with fan/air-con US$5-8) is very basic, but it’s the cheapest option in town.

Sa Dec Hotel ( tel 861430; Fan rooms US$10, air-con rooms US$ 15-18) has long been the main tourist accommodation in the area. All rooms have bathtubs.

At the time of writing, the new Bong Hong hotel ( Tel  861301, 80D Quoc Lo) was nearly complete, and looks posh from the outside. Rates should be in the US$ 20 to US$ 30 range.

Place to Eat

Thuy: ( Tel: 861644, 430 Hung Vuong str) is an other local eatery worth trying. The food is also good, but the bizarre facial expressions on the fish in the big tank are even better

Cay Sung ( Tel: 861749, 437 Hung Vuong str) is next door to Thuy and also has respectable Vietnamese fare.

A bit further south on Huong Vuong str. are a few good noodle shops

Getting there & Away

Sa Dec, localed in Dong Thap Province midway between Vinh Long and Long xuyen, is accessible by bus, minibus and car/


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