|Soc Trang||Ca Mau||Rach Gia|
|Phu Quoc Island||Hon Chong||Ha Tien|
Soc Trang is situated on Highway 1 and makes for a perfect place to break the journey from My Tho to Ca Mau. With a 500 kg Vampire pig and a psychedelic pagoda to see, Soc Trang is well worth a visit to experience a bit of the bizarre side of life in Vietnam.
Soc Trang is the home to two fascinating pagodas. The first one is the Khmer Bat Pagoda. The grounds are spacious and serene and the pagoda is lovely. About 20,000 fruit bats with dog-like faces live on the grounds of the pagoda, and an individual bat can weigh up to half a kilo. What gives the pagoda a twilight zone appeal is the fact that the bats only live on the trees within the pagoda grounds, and they eat no fruit from within the pagoda. For surreal appeal there is also a five year old 500 kg Vampire Pig in residence. This Pig has five ?toe things? instead of the usual four and to top it off, the Pig has fangs which are really weird.
The second is Dat Set (Soil) Pagoda. This is a truly incredible pagoda boasting hundreds of statues made of soil. Even the building and pillars were once made of soil, but have since been replaced with more stable concrete. There is a huge dragon and a huge tiger statue that protect the gold mountain, whilst a lion protects the silver mountain. However the most intriguing part of the pagoda is the candles. There are four large candles, two of which have never been lit and stand at 2.6 m high, weighing 200 kg. The other two candles have been burning continuously for the last twenty years and are only half done. There are crazy multicolored flickering lights everywhere giving the pagoda a psychedelic Christmas feeling.
Ca Mau is situated in one of the largest swamplands in the world, surpassed only by the Amazon basin. This provides Ca Mau with its unique attraction of the U-Minh mangrove forest.
U-Minh, which in Vietnamese means "twilight" and which is red as "ou ming" is the largest mangrove swamp forest that can be found in the world excepting the Amazon. Once in U-Minh forest you can take very interesting walks around the rice fields, indigo and mangrove forests and honeybee breeding areas. It is very quiet and spacious, making a worthwhile day trip from Ca Mau. Unluckily, the newest of this zone is a very bad news that a vast area had been burnt during the dry season in early 2002 and thus limited most of the present visits.
There are two bird parks that you can visit from Ca Mau. The first, Bac Lieu bird garden can be found about 3 km out of Bac Lieu. The second bird garden is in Minh Hai in Vuon Chim in the Bam Doi District.
This laid back fishing town is the capital of the Kien Giang province and faces the Gulf of Thailand. The main part of town is on an island connected by four roads that cross the channel. Some of the tastiest and cheapest local food is sold on the northern end of Hung Vuong Street. Rach Gia is considered a stronghold of the Cao Dai faith.
It is almost worth getting up at 5 or 6 am to watch the boats come in from a night of fishing. The fishing docks on the sea side of the island are a hive of activity while all the fish are being sorted.
Situated in the Gulf of Thailand, close to both Ha Tien, Rack Gia and the Cambodian coast, Phu Quoc Island possesses excellent white sand beaches and great snorkeling opportunities. Some of the islands to the South of Phu Quoc are also great for swimming and viewing the marine life.
Hon Chong is a sleepy seaside village where a few days could be spent laying in a hammock, exploring the surrounding islands and caves or both. It makes for a nice break from the bedlam of the larger town of the Delta, and you can escape from the heat by taking a swim at some of the nicest beaches in Vietnam. The population of Hon Chong is about fifty percent Khmer owing to its proximity to Cambodia.
Ha Tien, a very beautiful beach and market town, is situated virtually on the Vietnamese-Cambodian border and offers a diverse spread of Vietnamese life. There is a high percentage of Khmers living in this area, reflecting the historical significance of the area that has changed hands between Cambodia and Vietnam and in the late 1970s bore the brunt of Khmer Rouge raids across the frontier. Today ha Tien is a bustling smuggling town between two former enemies, but for the traveller, the main attractions of the area are the superb beaches.
Chau Doc sits on a tributary of the Bassic River and is an incredibly friendly bustling little city. The people here are known for being very warm and approachable. Chau Doc is also right on the Cambodian Border and if you were able to enter Cambodia by boat, you would pass through here.
The main attraction of Chau Doc is Sam Mountain. Situated 7 km from town along Bao Ho Thoai Street, the mountain has a number of pagodas at its base, and some kind of army listening post on the top. The main pagoda gets full marks for kitsch. Although the pagodas at the base of the mountain are nothing to write home about, the view from the top of the mountain is well worth the climb.
Chau Doc has a large covered street market on Le Cong Thanh Street. Here you can get everything from something tasty to eat to a new Hi Fi. There is also a great food market by the river, past the post office.
Ba Chuc is situated between Chau Doc and Long Xuyen where there is a temple and ossuary dedicated to over 3,000 Vietnamese that the Khmer Rouge massacred in September 1978. It is very moving and well worth visiting.
|SAIGON & MEKONG DELTA page 2||