Report Back: Bạc Liêu Inside and Out

On the road with Vietnam Track: Bạc Liêu 27-29 July 2018

It was a typical busy, stuffy night in the city as we waited for our departure to Bạc Liêu at a bus stop near a quiet stadium. The Initial shyness of strangers kept us quiet; trying to forget the problems of the past week and anticipating what was to come. But as soon as the wheels started turning our anxious mood was replaced by the familiar excitement that can only be caused by – travelling.

After several stops on the 5-hour trip to Bạc Liêu, our heads nodding in unison as our 16-seater bus tripped over the uneven joints of the bridges crossing the Mekong, we arrived bleary eyed and hungry at our destination. Minh and Việt (our tour managers for the weekend) got us up and going at 7 am. On the way to our first destination, we picked up our local guide, Vưu Bích Trâm, a local resident who currently studies in Ho Chi Minh City. With her bubbling personality she quickly steered us in the direction of our first stop: breakfast. At a small street side restaurant, we indulged in delicious Duck Curry (Cari Vịt). This was a fitting start to two days that included many surprises, all listed here:

 

  • Nọc Nạng Historical Relic Site
  • Tắc Sậy Church
  • Xiêm Cán Pagoda
  • Bạc Liêu Offshore Wind Farm
  • Cao Văn Lầu Memorial House
  • Hùng Vương Square + Nón Lá Theater
  • Night Market
  • Prince of Bạc Liêu House

A busy schedule indeed. All the places we visited were special in their own right. For example, the century-old Tac Say Church (Nhà Thờ Tắc Sậy) was not only monumental but also captivating in that both Catholics and Buddhists worship at the tomb of Father Francis Xavier Truong Buu Diep (Cha Phanxicô Trương Bửu Diệp), a martyr who protected his parishioners during the French colonial period.

Another destination that fascinated me was the Cao Văn Lầu Memorial House, a well-designed space bringing homage to the famous musician of Bạc Liêu. A combination of traditional buildings and a modern memorial depict the life of Cao Văn Lầu and his contemporaries. The song Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang (Night Drum Beats Cause Longing for Absent Husband), expertly sung by our appointed guide, relays the sadness of the couple’s temporary separation early in marriage. 

On Sunday we visited the House of the Prince of Bạc Liêu, the richest man in the South in the 1930’s. Although the museum was very crowded, we got a good sense of what his life was about. The opulence of the house, constructed with material imported from France to ensure authenticity, is only surpassed by the stories about the family’s excesses in monetary matters.

Fantastic photo opportunities awaited us along the way. At the Xiem Can Temple (Chùa Xiêm Cán) the rich Khmer architecture (mirroring much of the imagery found in Angkor) formed the perfect backdrop for amateur modelling, while the rough isolation of the Bạc Liêu Off-Shore Wind Farm brought out the nature photographer in all of us.

Of course, much of the memories on a trip like this are made during Impromptu, unplanned events that take shape out of the spirit of the moment. Our Saturday Karaoke binge was just such an event. After a long day of sightseeing and eating, and some singing on the way, the group voted for Karaoke as the final event of the day. The scene was set for an explosion of talent and as soon as the beers started flowing the octaves started climbing. A good time was had by all and strangers we were no more.

Our spontaneity continued the next day, when we landed unplanned at a fishing restaurant. Yes, that’s right. Catch your own fish from your “cabana on the pond” or order from the restaurant. As our energy faded and the trip back to TP.HCM loomed, this was the perfect setting to rejuvenate and recuperate. One last stop on our way home was necessary at Soc Trang, where we sampled the delicious local specialty, Bún nước lèo.

And so, at 8 pm on Sunday, twelve travelers who departed as strangers from various countries, returned to Ho Chi Minh City as friends. On the way we learned about each person’s idiosyncrasies, for example, some had a knack for singing, some for modeling and taking photos, while others just love eating and talking. And for each of our needs the trip provided in abundance.

A great Thank You! goes out to my fellow travelers, to Minh and Việt for the organization and to Vưu for being our tour guide.

Make sure you are on the next trip organized by Vietnam Track!

All photos credited to Vietnam Track

Original post at www.asiandaze.com

   

The Anecdote of Công Tử Bạc Liêu

The Cochinchine region (former name of southern Vietnam) in the French colonial period was very prosperous due to the boom in agricultural economics. In Bạc Liêu at that time, the number of landlords held 2% of the population. However, their possessions including private farming lands seized 95% of Bạc Liêu province. Therefore, this period had given birth to the lavish spending lifestyle of many sons of money-bags landlords.

During the 1900s, a few profligate sons living in Bac Lieu were notorious for spending money limitlessly. The term “Công Tử Bạc Liêu”, indeed, referred to this specific type of “rich” guys. The most well-known “Công Tử Bạc Liêu” was Trần Trinh Huy (1900-1973).

The Father Built

The Trần Trinh family had their fortune built by Trần Trinh Trạch (1872-1949), who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Nevertheless, he was fortunate enough to go to French schools as a replacement for a son of a rich family he worked for. After graduated, the lucky scholar was a secretary at Bạc Liêu mayor house and was then admired by Sir Phan Văn Bì – a wealthy landlord. Sir Bi married his fourth daughter to Mr.Trach and gave the couple a large number of farming lands in Bạc Liêu. Mr.Trach quitted his job as a secretary to manage the landlord business of Sir Bi.

Mr.Trach had a good sense of business. Not only he developed the landlord business for his father-in-law,  but also dictated the salt market over the Cochinchine region. Later on, Mr.Trach began doing real estate. He had several buildings in Bạc Liêu as well as Saigon. However, the man wouldn’t be satisfied with his success, he switched to banking enterprise and became the co-founder of Vietnam National Bank (1927).

Despite being a trillionaire, Mr.Trach and his wife lived a simple life. They didn’t fancy luxurious things, but indeed, always saved money for investment.

statues-at-the-altar-of-their-villa
Mr. Trach and his wife statues at the altar of their former villa.
photo: plo.vn
The Son Destroyed
*The paradox of Mr. Trach

Tran Trinh Huy, the third child of 7 children of the family, was trusted as the ‘suitable heir’ for the fortune by his father. Hence, Mr.Trach invested the most money in Huy to study and take over the family business.

Of all the children in the family, Huy disposed to be clever. He treated people equally despite superior or lower classes. Huy was a generous guy. He gave money to whomever he felt like need help from him. Overall, it seemed like Mr.Trach had trusted the right child to inherit his legacies. But little that he knew Huy was a real spendthrift.  

tran-trinh-huy-and-his-wife
Trần Trinh Huy and his first lady.
photo: vietfuntravel.com.vn
*The Black Prince of Bac Lieu

In 1926, Huy came back from Paris after 6 years of studying abroad with nothing but an aeroplane driver’s license, flirting girls, dancing and gambling skills. Back home, Huy began the life of a ‘cash burner’. With the limitless money source from his father, Huy could purchase anything he wanted in the world. He became the second person who owned a private jet, after King Bao Dai. People at that time had witnessed Huy driving his aeroplane just to watch over the family’s farming land property. Huy also liked to drive supercars around Saigon and dived in luxurious parties with champagnes (temporarily the fanciest drink). Huy also spent a vast amount of money on gambling and pursuing beauties.

One of many cars that Huy pursued for his cars collection.
photo: saigonnews.vn
*The Black Prince and the White Prince confrontation.

At that time, there was another ‘Huy’ named George Phuoc, who happened to be the rival against Huy. They were both competitive and extravagant spenders. People set their nicknames by their skin tones. George Phuoc was the White Prince and Huy was the Black Prince. They spent money against each other, mostly to win the girls that the other was dating. There were several anecdotes about the Black and White Princes. Here are the two most famous ones:

_ Once, George Phuoc invited Huy and one of his beauties to the theatre he owned to see a play. While they were watching, the beauty dropped a 5 Bạc note (let’s assume that it was a $5 note). George Phuoc immediately burned a $100 note to ‘make light’ for the beauty to find her money in front of Huy to impress the beauty as well as his rival. 

_ Huy and George Phuoc were very eager to show their fortune and win over one another. They once held a competition in which both of them burnt money to maintain the fire to boil an egg. This anecdote wasn’t proven the accuracy for a long time. However, recently, a son of Huy has declared that it was a false rumour.

*The fallen of the wealthy family

After almost a century, the Trần Trinh family went corrupt under the destruction of Trần Trinh Huy. It is obvious to reckon the day Huy went from hero to zero. For such a great fortune Huy had inherited, it was a shame that he lead that mountain of wealth to completely fall into a black hole. At the end of his life, Huy suffered many diseases resulted from the former abundant lifestyle. On January 1973, Huy died in loneliness, leaving his descendants poverty-stricken, miserable and failure to redeem his debts. Huy has in total 3 official wives and 8 children. Otherwise, the Tran Trinh family also admitted children resulted from his affairs with many mistresses. The children sold the remaining of their father’s property and fleed everywhere and struggled to make ends meet. None of his children returned to Bạc Liêu except for Trần Trinh Đức, the third son of Huy. Đức struggled in debts of his gambling daughter and eventually returned to Bac Lieu in his 50s. He is now a tour guide in his former house “Nhà Công Tử Bạc Liêu” ( Huy’s former villa).

Trần Trinh Đức, the only son of Huy who returned to Bạc Liêu. photo: dailo.vn
*Ending:

The tragedy of Công Tử Bạc Liêu has contributed to the southern Vietnamese people a lesson to educate their children to use their money wisely. If you have a chance to visit Bạc Liêu once, come to Công Tử Bạc Liêu‘s villa to witness his luxurious life. I hope you enjoy reading the story and don’t forget to register for our upcoming trip to Bạc Liêu.

Levi.

Top 4 Must-Check-In Places In Bac Lieu

Heading further southward from Can Tho, you’ll reach Bac Lieu – the land carrying the anecdote of the notorious Công Tử Bạc Liêu (Bac Lieu’s extravagant millionaires). Bac Lieu is also well known for its diverse nature, ethnic groups and cultures.

A bus trip from Ho Chi Minh city to Bac Lieu takes approximately 5,5 hours. It might seem quite a long road, but later on, after your arrivals, Bac Lieu’s favourite food and destinations will reimburse the long trip we’ve spent to visit this land. Now, please follow me, I will guide you through 4 must-visit destinations in Bac Lieu for photoholics.

>>>We will travel to Bạc Liêu in the end of July. If you are interested, please click here.

*Bac Lieu Wind Turbine Field

The turbine field belongs to Bac Lieu Wind Power Station. There are 62 wind turbines placed beyond the sea, connected by a bridge. Here, you can enjoy a spectacular sunset by the beach with lovely sea breeze running through your hair. Please notice that you might have to ask for permission to enter some turbines.  But don’t worry, you’ll receive a friendly nod from the guards. Now, it’s time to take some wonderful pictures.

Address: Ấp Biển Đông A, xã Vĩnh Trạch Đông. The field is 20km away from the centre.

instagram: @hoangphuongdo93
*Nhà Mát Beach

This is a muddy beach, the water is pinkish brown from mud and alluvium. The best time to visit the beach is at dawn when the fishermen catch fish and seafood. Since the water is quite shallow, you can walk very far from the shore. At 5 or 6 in the morning, you can ask to join in the seafood hunt with the fishermen. The work is hard, yet, fun and exciting. And the reward afterwards is the delicious dishes made from you hand-caught fresh products.

Fishers at the beach.
photo: gody.vn
*Hùng Vương Square

The square is open to public since 2014 and has become the favourite meeting point of Bac Lieu people. In the centre, there’s a big model of Đàn Kìm – a local string musical instrument commonly known as the symbol of Đờn Ca Tài Tử ( southern Vietnam singing arts). On the other side, there is also a sculpture of three arches representing the union of 3 peoples Kinh – Khmer – Chinese, by whom the diverse cultures of Bac Lieu are formed. A walk with your friends around the square in the evening gives you a relaxing moment before you head back to the hotel and enjoy a good sleep.

Address: Nguyễn Tất Thành, Phường 7, Bạc Liêu

Đàn Kìm statue at Hùng Vương square.
photo: vietnamtourism.com
*Three Nón Lá Theatre (Cao Văn Lầu Theatre)

The theatre is right next to Hùng Vương square. You can’t find another building more Vietnamese than this one. Now, I’m sure you’re familiar with nón lá (Vietnamese conical hat), the theatre wears three of them on its head, which makes a perfect shade against the merciless sunlight at noon.

The theatre is named after the famous song composer Cao Văn Lầu, who contributed many spectacular songs to Đờn Ca Tài Tử. It is the place that holds local theatre arts performance also a ‘museum’ that keeps pictures and documents of Cải Lương and Đờn Ca Tài Tử.

photo: foody.vn

>>>Make your journey to Bac Lieu complete by trying 6 Tasty Food You Should Try In Bac Lieu

Looks like we have made it through a long travel day. I hope you’ll get many wonderful pictures to fill in your travelling Vietnam collection. Feel free to send us your beautiful photos! We really appreciate your lovely moments with us. 

Levi. 

6 Tasty Food You Should Try In Bac Lieu

In the previous article, I have introduced you about the “Agri-and-Culture” aspects of Bạc Liêu – The Wealthy Wild Child of Mekong Delta. You have visited must-visit and must-check-in destinations in Bạc Liêu, but your journey would be not complete if you miss the featured cuisines of Bạc Liêu. Below are what you should check out when visiting Bạc Liêu. 

>>>We will travel to Bạc Liêu in the end of July. If you are interested, please click here.

*Bánh xèo (Bahn-xeoSizzling crêpes)

Bánh xèo is a typical dish in Southern Vietnam. But each place holds their own Bánh xèo recipe. You may have known Saigon and Cần Thơ bánh xèo, but how about Bạc Liêu? Let’s try it and compare the difference.

**Try and prove! Here’s a tip to determine the bánh xèo of your life. First, when it is served, immediately pinch a crisp on the outer side of the crêpe and put it right into your mouth. Now, it should crumble and start releasing coconut fragrance in your mouth, and you should feel almost like tasting a piece of creamy crystal. That’s how you know that bánh xèo is ‘the one’. If the crust is too thick and leaks too much grease, I’m sorry, the search for your right crêpes still continues.

Bánh xèo in Bạc Liêu follows the basic ingredients: rice batter, mung beans, slices of pork, fresh shrimps, onion and bean sprouts. But the secret that makes it unforgettable is the crispness on the crust. Many tourists keep coming back to Bạc Liêu to retrieve the authentic taste of this mouthwatering crêpes. Try it for once, the ‘bánh xèo’ of your life awaits you there!

Address: Bánh xèo A Mật61/2 Tỉnh Lộ 31, Ấp Giồng Nhãn, X. Hiệp Thành,  Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Bạc Liêu.

Price range: 50,000 – 60,000 VND.

Bánh Xèo – the ‘yellow’ temptation.
photo: www.monngon.tv
*Bún bò cay (boon-ba-caySpicy beef noodles soup)

Vietnamese cuisine has more Bún*-based dishes than Phở*-based ones. So, next time if a Vietnamese describe you a “noodles” dish, think wider than Phở Bò. Ask them which type of noodles it is because the textures of the noodles are different.

*Bún: think of rice noodles in the spaghetti shape. *Phở: think of rice noodles in tagliatelle shape.

Bạc Liêu has a signature Bún dish called Bún Bò Cay (spicy beef Bún). If you’re a fan of spicy food, do not miss it. Non-spicy eaters can also try the milder version. Just ask for no chilli, and the chef won’t make you suffer.

The broth is the star of the dish. It’s a mixture of aromas (cinnamon, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, etc.) which pairs perfectly with the tender beef loin. A spoonful of soup brings you pleasure. But hang on, your inner beast is about to release itself. Red chilli oil, (contains garlic and red peppers tossed in oil) floats on the surface is the reason to name the dish bún bò cay (cay means spicy). It is what we call “satay” and is the highlight of the dish.

Because of its heat, herby smell and vibrant spice, Bún bò cay is approved to be the best hangover cure for those who happened to “have too much fun” last night but want to come back to earth early morning.

Address: Quán Ánh Nguyệt 119 Cao Văn Lầu,  Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Bạc Liêu.

Price range: 25,000 – 35,000 VND.

Spicy !!
photo: chonoicairang.com.vn
*Bún nước lèo (boon-nuoc-leoBroth noodles)

There are fresh fish and shrimp with slices of pork. The bún noodles dive in the clear amber colour broth. Wow, it looks as if the chef has scooped a tiny bit of Mekong river to the bowl. Speaking of the broth, I’ll explain why it is so special that they wouldn’t give this dish another name.

Have you heard of the Vietnamese fermented fish (or shellfish)? We call them ‘mắm’, they’re the key ingredients for many dishes in the Mekong Delta. In Broth Noodles, they cook ‘mắm cá sặc’ (fermented snakeskin gourami) with lemongrass and a special root vegetable called ‘ngải bún’ in seafood stock up to 8 hours to develop all sorts of sweetness and umami taste in the soup. The last attempt to ‘sweeten’ the broth, even more, is adding coconut water.

Scoop in a spoonful of the crystal clear broth and feel the love between mắm and fresh seafood. Now, you owe the chef a thumbs up and a compliment.

Address: Quán Út MénQuốc Lộ 1A,  Vĩnh Lợi, Bạc Liêu.

Price range: 30,000 – 35,000 VND.

_ Really? Broth noodles? You mean… just noodles and broth?!
_ Yeah, that’s true!
No, I’m kidding :).
photo: vanhoamientay.com
*Bánh tằm Ngan Dừa (Bahn-tam-Ngan-ZuaSilkworm rice cake salad with coconut sauce)

Bánh tằm (silkworm rice cake) is named after its shape. The little “worms” are hand-rolled out of rice starch dough. Bánh tằm salad includes rice cakes, pork skin strings, meatballs cooked in tomato sauce, carrot pickles and spring onion oil. The sauce is very unique because it is the combination of coconut cream and sweet fish sauce. Of course, there is some fresh chilli to balance the ‘dessert’ feeling of this savoury dish.

I had the first bánh tằm bite when I was six years old, but honestly, I found it a little odd. However, from the second bite, the oddity started playing catch with my taste buds and kept fooling around in my mouth until I finished the plate clean and clear. Do I recommend trying bánh tằm? Yes, a hundred times yes! Try it for once to experience going through from one surprise to another, but in a good way. Overall it’s a delightful tasting experience.

Address: Ngan Dừa market34 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Ngan Dừa, Hồng Dân, Bạc Liêu.

Price range: 15,000 – 30,000 VND.

Bánh Tằm is the result of the mixed culture among Chinese – Vietnamese- Khmer cuisines.
photo: tungxichlo.com
*Hủ Tíu Bò Kho – (Hu-tieow-ba-khaBeef Stew with Flat Rice Noodles).

This noodles dish doesn’t relate with the Spicy Beef Noodles I’ve mentioned above. Bò Kho (Vietnamese Style Beef Stew), is very much alike Beef Ragu; however, it has a distinct fragrance of lemongrass, star anise and garlic. Hủ tiếu bò kho literally means noodles and beef stew. A bowl of this soup includes tender beef, softened carrots, noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, fresh herbs and smokey hot soup. These elements complement each other so well that they bring the dish to cross the deliciousness standard.

Hủ tíu bò kho is preferably a breakfast dish. There’s also another way you can enjoy it, which is Bánh mì bò kho (Beef stew with bread). In this version, you will enjoy only beef stew, and a loaf of bread served alongside. For me, both versions are equally tasty. There’s one more tip I recommend: you should dip the beef in a small bowl of salt, pepper and lime which comes with the bò kho bowl.

Address: Quán Cari Vịt Linh, Cao Văn Lầu, Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Tỉnh Bạc Liêu

Price range: 35,000 – 50,000 VND

The broth is full of fragrance, almost like a perfect perfume for the beef.
photo: afamily.vn
*Longan fruits

In the last article, I mentioned that Bạc Liêu has a famous ancient longan garden. Yes, I would be very happy to recommend the place to you. They grow many tropical fruits there, especially longan fruits (meaning dragon eyes).

Under the rough and brown skin lying the transparent flesh wrapping around a black seed, looking like an eyeball. The flesh gives you a juicy and candy-like taste. I’m pretty sure you might have to keep eating more and more of them because you won’t be able to resist yourself from its sweetness, which works like a refreshing treat below the heat of sunlight.

Besides longan, there are more fruits such as tropical tangerine, mangosteens, mangoes, and so on. Basically, it depends on which period of the year you visit Bạc Liêu because fruits are grown in crops. Longan fruits are available from June to  September annually.

Address: Vườn Nhãn Cổ Bạc Liêu ( Bac Lieu’s Ancient Longan Garden)  2,  Hiệp Thành – Vĩnh Trạch Đông, Bạc Liêu city.

Longan, anyone?
photo: lamtho.vn

I hope you will have a great cuisine experience in Bac Lieu. Bon appétit everyone!

Levi.

[Event] – Bac Lieu Weekend Trip: Meet The Dandy

Welcome you to our 7th travel – Bac Lieu, the hometown of many wealthy landlords of Southern Vietnam. This tour was particularly designed by a Bac Lieu local with the aim of offering the most local experiences for participants.

Situated next to the Southernmost province of Vietnam (Cà Mau) and 288km away from Hồ Chí Minh City, Bạc Liêu is such a charming countryside province of Mekong Delta awaiting to be explored by travellers. In this trip, the local identity can be learnt through paying a visit to

  • The French-styled House of Công Tử Bạc Liêu who was infamous for his lavishness,
  • A 130-year-old Khmer pagoda named Xiêm Cán Pagoda,
  • Nọc Nạn Historical Relic Site where the bloody battle between farmer brothers and the French took place,
  • Cao Văn Lầu Memorial House to honor the famous musician who composed the classic Cải lương song – Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang telling the the story of a wife awaiting her husband’s return from the battlefield,
  • Offshore Wind Farm which is the first one in Asia and has been operated since 2013,

And other destinations such as Hùng Vương Square, Nón Lá Theater, Tắc Sậy Church, Bạc Liêu Museum, etc.

We can have a chance to experience some of Bạc Liêu special dishes such as Bánh xèo (sizzling crepe,) Bún bò cay (spicy beef noodles soup,) Bún nước lèo (broth noodles) and many others which will be found in Bạc Liêu Night Market.

Anything else? Well, they are waiting for your own exploration.

Time: 27-29th July 2018
Schedule:

Fee:

The sooner your payment is, the higher promotion you get 😉

  • 27/06 – 06/07: 1,600,000VND ($70)
  • 07/07 – 20/07: 1,700,000VND ($74)
  • 21/07 – 25/07: 1,900,000VND ($83)

Including:

  • Two-way bus tickets
  • Entrance tickets
  • Rental motorbikes in 2 days
  • Hotel
  • Food & drinks, water
  • Tour guide fee

***Excluding: Other fees out of those above-mentioned things.

Cancellation Refund Policy:

If you cancel your registration, you will receive refund based on the time of your cancellation.

  • 27/06 – 06/07: Refund 90% of the total fee.
  • 07/07 – 13/07: Refund 60% of the total fee.
  • 14/07 – 20/07: Refund 30% of the total fee.
  • 21/07 – 27/07: No refund.
Registration Process:

Step 1. Register by filling in the form below.

https://goo.gl/forms/dPQe3NbyGPnuOIWX2

Step 2. Complete your payment via:

***Bank Transfer: The information of bank account will be sent to you via email.

***Direct Payment:

Contact Minh Nguyen

  • Phone: 01666725720
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minhvuongainguyen

***Your registration will only be counted after completing your payment.

Before registration, please read the following terms carefully.

1/ In each trip, there is a main guide who is in charge of planning, arranging everything, contacting people, and guiding during the trip. The guide cooperates with us via the Local Supporters Program. All of the expenses of the guide will be shared among other participants in the trip. That’s why in your fee including the fee for the guide. The guide of this trip is Vuu Bich Tram.

If you agree with the above-mentioned term and feel interested in the trip, register ASAP! First come first served. Please fill in the the form below.

>>>Check out our photo galleries of previous trips

Xiem Can Pagoda (Photo source: Andre Luo)
Non La Theater (Photo Source: yesgo.vn)
Hung Vuong Square (Photo source: mytour.vn)
Offshore Wind Farm (Photo source: vietnammoi.vn)
Prince of Bac Lieu House (Photo source: Wikipedia)
Bun nuoc leo
Bun bo cay