Are you looking for a place outside of HCMC, but not too far away, for experiencing rural life with local people?
Well then, Ben Tre is a good destination for you.
Why to visit?
Situated in Mekong River in the Southwestern Vietnam, Ben Tre – a major rice producer – is a fertile plain criss – crossed by a network of channels and adorned by immense rice fields, long coconut tree lines and large fruit gardens. In contrast to modern HCMC, the charm of Ben Tre lies in its peaceful countryside scenery, coconut-flavored food, and historical values.
Ben Tre Province is also called “Start of the Vietnam War” because in 1960, the famous all-female “Long Hair Army” uprising led by Madame Nguyen Thi Dinh sparked many uprisings in other Southern provinces of Vietnam.
Where to visit?
Phung Islet is in Tien River in Tan Thach Commune, Chau Thanh District, 12km away from the center of Ben Tre. The islet, reachable by boat, is famous not only for its lush array of fruits (especially coconuts) but also for superb specialty dishes of the Southwestern Vietnam.
Moreover, making handicrafts from coconut trees and making coconut candies are an integral part of daily lives of the residents. Ben Tre coconut candies are so famous that people usually associate Ben Tre with coconut candies. In Phung Islet, you can visit a coconut candy factory to observe the process of making the candies and try them when they come out of the oven, which tastes much better than the ones packed in a box.
Another special feature of Phung Islet is “đờn ca tài tử” music and song which is recognized by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Telling about the people’s life and work in the Mekong Delta region, “đờn ca tài tử” is played on different musical instruments including moon-shaped lute, two-string fiddle, bamboo flute and so on. Sitting under a thatched palm roof and enjoying a cup of honey tea and coconut candies while listening to traditional folk music of “đờn ca tài tử,” you truly find yourself immersed in a typical entertainment atmosphere of Southwest Vietnam.
There are some other activities such as crocodile fishing, taking photos with ostrich, crossing the Monkey Bridge (cau khi), and riding on a horse-drawn carriage to visit fruit gardens.
Besides, Phung Islet is also known as the origin of Coconut Religion – which was initiated by Nguyen Thanh Nam in the 1940s. Its core belief was to combine the essences of different religions such as Buddhism and Christianity, and pray for the good of all people and nations. Nguyen Thanh Nam built lots of works in Phung Islet but now there are only two remains – 9 Dragons Ground, where cardinals would give speeches and a S-shaped bridge representative of the shape of Vietnam.
Cai Mon Orchard Village – Cho Lach
Located in a typical tropical area with only two seasons in a year (wet season May – October, and dry season November – April), Ben Tre creates ideal conditions for growing various kinds of fruit such as coconut, pomelo, durian, bananas, jackfruit, rambutan, mango and mangosteen.
Between May and June, visiting Cai Mon Orchard Village (Cho Lach), the homeland of flowers and fruits in Ben Tre, you will be amazed at the immense diversity of fruits, especially ripen rambutan paints a large area with red color. With the minimum fee of approximately VND 100,000, you are allowed to pick the fleshy fruits and taste them right away. The sweet and mild taste of the exotic fruits will definitely leave you with an unforgettable experience.
What to eat?
“Banh xeo” – Vietnamese crepe
Banh xeo is a popular savory crepe stuffed with prawns, pork, bean sprouts, cassava and served with fresh herbs. A special point of Banh xeo in the Southwest Vietnam is that the batter is made with rice flour and coconut milk.
“Ca loc nuong trui” – Grilled snakehead fish
In Ben Tre, you will have an opportunity to experience by bare hands and then have it grilled and enjoy a tasty countryside food.
Where to stay?
With cheap cost, convenient facilities and superb service, homestay is a great choice for accommodation when travelling to “the Paradise of Eco-tourism.” One homestay receiving many good reviews from visitors is Nhon Thanh homestay in Nhon An village, Nhon Thanh, will give you the feeling of returning to Ben Tre in the past with old-time houses. Rooms are cooled by fans, so you may need to use a mosquito net to protect yourself from insects. The homestay also provides free bicycle rental service, so that you can cycle around the village watching daily life of local people.
If you are in Ben Tre in March or April, remember to take a look up to the sky which is attached with a huge number of lovely kites flown by children here.
How to get there?
Ben Tre is 14 km from My Tho (Tien Giang province), and 85 km from Ho Chi Minh City.
From Ho Chi Minh city, you can take an express bus to Ben Tre for about 2 hours. There are lots of express bus companies prividing bus services to Ben Tre including Minh Tam, Thao Chau, Thinh Phat and Hoang Khai. The ticket fare of one-way trip is VND 65,000 per person.
If you want to visit the Phung Islet, tell the driver to stop at “Ngã tư huyện,” and then call a motorbike taxi to Tan Thach ferry. After that, you can reach the Phung Islet by boat. Otherwise, if you want to visit Cho Lach, tell the driver to stop at Ben Tre bus station (Ben xe Ben Tre), and then take bus No.8 for another 45 minutes.
If riding a motorbike, from Vo Van Kiet Boulevard (HCMC) you can go along National Highway 1A for 1.5 hours, and then cross Rach Mieu bridge to reach Ben Tre.
Nhi Nguyen – Minh Nguyen