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Around Cao Lanh


Tel: 067 + Pop 139,100

Cao Lanh is a new town carved from the jungles and swamps of the Mekong Delta region. Its up and coming status has much to do with its designation as the provincial capital of Dong Thap Province. Boat tours of the bird sanctuaries and Rung Tram Forest are major attractions in this region.

War Memorial

The War Memorial ( Dai Liet Si: admission free), located on the eastern edge of town of Hwy 30, is Cao Lanh’s most prominent landmark. This masterpiece of socialist-style sculpture boasts a clamshell-shaped building displaying a large Vietnamese star alongside a hammer and sickle. In front of this are several large concrete statues of victorious peasants and soldierss with upraised fists and brandishing weapons. The surrounding grounds are decked out with the graves of over 300VC who died while fighting in the American War

Construction of the War Memorial began in 1977 and ginished in 1984.

Nguyen Sinh Sac Grave Site

Another significant tomb is that of Nguyen Sinh Sac (1862-1929). Nguyen’s main contribution to Vietnamese history wa being the father of Ho Chi Minh. His large tomb occupies one hectare, about 1km southwest of central Cao Lanh.

Although there are various plaques ( In Vietnamese) and tourist pamphlets extolling Nguyen Sinh Sac as a great revolutionary, There is little  evidence to suggest that he was involved in the anticalonial struggle against the French.

Place to Stay

Cao Lanh Hotel ( Tel: 851061, 71 Nguyen Hue, rooms with fan US$ 5 – 19, with air-con & Hot bath US$10) is consideratble older and grottier than the others; a definite candigate for renovations.

Binh Minh Hotel ( tel: 853423, 147 Hung Vuong, rooms with fan/air Con US$ 5/15), one of the cheapest place in town, is recommended. The owner is a friendly local school teacher.

Thien An Hotel ( Tel: 853041, air-con rooms US$ 15-20) is about 500m from the War Memorial. This new place is decent value and a couple of the rooms have river views. All rooms have attached hot bath.

Xuan Mai Hotel ( Tel: 852852, Fax: 853058; Le Quy Don str. Doubles wiht air-con US$ 20-30) is a recently renovated place behind the post office. All the rooms here are equaipped with air-con, hot water and even baths, and Internet access is also available here.

Hoa Binh Hotel ( Tel: 851469, fax 851218, air- con rooms US$ 25-30) is located in the easern side of town on Hwy 30, opposit the War Memorial, It is the city’s most up market hotel, and rooms have satellite TV. Try to book a room in the pleasant villa at the rear – It;s conveniently localed near the in House beer Garden

Song Tra Hotel ( 852504, fax 853623; 178 Nguyen Hue, str, Rooms US$ 20 -25) also features satellite TV.

Places to Eat

Cao Lanh is famous for rice- field rats ( Chuot dong), and it’s a good a place as any to sample the local delicacy!

A Chau: ( tel: 852202, 105D Ly Thuong Kiet, mains 30.000d- 45000d, open 8am to 9pm) specialises in fried pancakes ( banh seo) that you roll up and dip in fish sauce. The goat hotpot (Lau de) is also yummy.

Tu Hao ( Tel: 852589, Dien Bien Phu str, mains: 35.000d – 55000d; open 10 am – 9pm) is one of the best eateries in town. They seve all kinds of barbecued food, including rice-field rats and the snakes who like to eat them! The house special are the fresh spring rolls.

Ngoc Lan ( 208 Nguyen Hue) Is worth a try if you’re after something local. We recommend the shredded grog, or better yet, the “ row dish bowel”

In a pinch, there are decent restaurants in both the Song Tra Hotel and Hoa Binh Hotel.

Getting there and Around

The signts around Cao Lanh are best visited by river. Although you could possibly arrange something privately with boat owners, you’ll probably find it easier to deal with Dong Thap Tourist. Fotunately, its rates are reasonable. There are too many different combinations of boat sizes and possible destinations to list them all, but a group of 15peaple would be chargeabout US$2 per person for a half day tour, Including all transport. A group of five might pay US$ 10 each for the same thing. You may not be travelling with 14 campanions, but you can try rounding up other travellers at the hotels in town.


White stork Sanctuary

To the northeast of Cao Lanh is a bird sanctuary ( Cuong Co Thap Muoi) for white storks. A white stock standing on the back of a water baffalo is the symbol of the Mekong Delta, and you probably have more chance of deeing a stork here than any where else. The sanctuary only convers two hectares, but the birds seem mostly undisturbed by the nearby farmers ( who have been sternly warned not to hunt them)

The storks have grown accustomed to people and are fairly easy to spot, as they feed in the mangrove and bamboo forests in the area. They live in pairs and don’t migrate with the seasons, so you can see them at any time of the year. The birds live on fresh – water crabs and other titbits that they catch in the canals

There are no roads as such to the bird sanctuary, so Getting there requires a trip by boat. Dong Thap Tourist can arrange this, though you may be able to arrange it else-where. A speed boat costs US$ 30 per hour, and the ride takes 50 minutes. A slow boat costs US& 6 per person, ( with 20 people) and takes three hours to make the return journey.

In the dryseason, you have to plan yor boat trip according to the twon daily tides at low tide the canals can become impassable

Many travellers include a trip to White Stork Sanctuary with a visit to Rung Tram Forest.

Rung Tram Forest

Southest of Cao Lanh and accessible by boat tour is the 46-hectare Rung Tram Forest near My Long village. The area is one vast swamp with a beautiful thick canopy of tall trees and vines. It’s one of the last natural forests left in the Mekong Delta, and by now probably would have been turned into a rice paddy were it not for its historical significance. During the American War, the VC had a base here called Xeo Quit, where tio Brass VC lived in underground bunkers. But don’t mistake this for another Cu Chi Tunnels – Its very different

Only about 10 VC were here ate any given time. They were all generals who directed the war from here, just 2 km from a US$ military base. The Americans never realised that the VC generals were living right under their noses. Of course, they were suspicious about that patch of forest, and periodically dropped some bombs on it just to reassure themselves, but the VC remained safe in their underground bunkers.

The location of the base was so secret that the wives of the generals didn’t even known it. They did occasionally pay their husbands conjugal visits, but this had to be arranged at another special bunker.

When the US military departed from Vietnam in 1973, the VC grew bolder and put the base above ground. Attempts by the South Vietnamese military to dislogde the VC were thwarted – while the south was running out of funding and ammunition, the VC were able to build up their forces in the Mekong Delta and openly challege the Saigon Regime.

Access to the Area is most popular by boat, and many visitors combine a visit with a trip to white Stork Sanctuary. A speedboat from Cao Lanh to Rung Tram Forest takes around 30 minutes ( depending on the tides). It is also possible now to rach to forest by road if you are travelling by car or motorbike.

Beware of the exceedingly mean rad ants here; they are huge, fast and very aggressive.

Tram Chim Nature Reserve

Due north of Cao Lanh in Tam Nong ( Dong Thap Province) is Tram Chim National Wetland Reserve ( Tram Chim Tam Nong), notable for its eastern sarus crances. Over 220 species of birds antigone sharpii). Over 220 species of birds have been identified within the severve, but ornithologists will be most interested in the rare red-headed cranes, which grow to over 1.5m high. The birds nest there from about December to June. From July to November, they go on holiday to Camboda, so you mist schedule your vst to coordinate with the brds’ travel itineraryIf you want to see them. Also, the birds are early rsers-early morning is the best tme to see them. though you might get a glimpse when they return home in the evening. During the day, the birds are of course engaged in the important matter of eating.

Seeing these birds requires a considerable commitment, so it’s really a specal nterest tour. Because you’ll need to be up at the crack of down, staying in Cao Lanh doesn’t work out too well-you would have to head out at 4.30 am and travel in the dark over an unlit dirt road. Ths is not advisable, so you rally need to stay at the government guesthouse in Tam Nong, whch is much closer to where the birds are.

Tam Nong: is a sleepy town 45km from Cao Lanh. The one-way drive take 1½ hours by car, though ths may be reduced to an hour when the currently abysmal road s resurfaced. It i salso possible to get there by boat. A speed boat takes only one hour to rent. A slow boat can be arranged from Dong Thap Tourist, but the one way journey takes four hours and requeires 20 people to make it economically viable. From the guest house in Tam Nong, It takes another bour by small boat ( Us$20 per hour) to reach the area where the redheaded cranes live and another hour to return. To this, add whaterver time you spend ( perhaps an hour) staring at your feathered friends through binoculars, and then the requisite one to four hours to return to Cao Lanh, depending on your mode of transport.

The state-run guesthouse in Tam Nong is just before you cross the brigde heading into the town centre. We found the guesthouse deploreable; not only were the rooms filthy, the place was overrun with thousands of bugs and the staff had no insecticide. If you’re going to stay here, you may want to stocl up on toxic chemicals in Cao Lanh, ore try to score a can of bug killer in town.

Tam Nong Shuts down early – if you want to eat dinner in town, make arrangements befors 5pm.

Phuong Chi ( Tel: 827230, 537 Thi Tran Tram Chim ) is a good restaurant close to the market in the town centre. Meals can be served later if you book in advance, but you will have to pay extra.

There are heaps of mosquitoes in Tam Nong in the evening, so come prepared with insect repellent.

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