The province of Tan Chau is famous across Vietnam for its naturally-colored black silk. We spent a day trying to find a place where we could watch it being made. Should be easy, right?
All we did was cross the bridge from downtown Chau Doc, and everything changed. The people looked and sounded different, had a different style of dress and a different religion. We had arrived in Chau Doc’s Cham Village… and it had nothing to do with the Vietnam we’ve come to know.
About a half-hour by motorbike to the southeast of Chau Doc, the square-shaped forest of Tra Su has become a favorite nesting spot for storks and other large water birds. A visit to the water-carpeted park is a popular excursion from Chau Doc, and for good reason.
If you follow the Bassac River inland from Can Tho, the last town you encounter before reaching Cambodia is Chau Doc. We spent a few days in this ethnically diverse city, dedicating the first to its most popular attraction: the holy mountain of Nui Sam.
Part of the six-hour boat tour we’d taken in Can Tho had been a visit to a tourist-oriented rice paper “factory”. That was fine, but we wanted to see the real thing. About forty kilometers north of Can Tho lies Thuận Hưng, which is locally known as a rice paper village. We took the bus there, to hunt down a few of the factories.
Apart from a few photos in a Can Tho tourism brochure, we couldn’t find any information about little Cồn Sơn Island. But we decided to roll the dice, and visit anyway. If “Adventure” is comprised of equal parts “Challenge” and “Surprise”, with a dash of “Terror” to spice things up, then our experience on Cồn Sơn definitely qualifies as an adventure.
The colonial house of Ben Thuy looks like it hasn’t changed a bit since the 19th century. After checking out the property and its garden of orchids, we walked toward the river along the entertaining street of Bui Huu Nghia.
Part of Can Tho’s charm is that there isn’t a lot to do. The city practically forces you into a state of relaxation; it’s hard to stress about “seeing all the sights”, when there aren’t many sights to see. The entire itinerary for our first day was “Boat Ride”, so when the tour turned out to be six hours long, we didn’t mind.
With over a million inhabitants, Can Tho is the unofficial capital of the Mekong Delta, and a major center of education and commerce. But despite the big-city status, it manages to maintain a slow pace and relaxed atmosphere. We spent four enjoyable days here.
Eastern medicine has centuries of history, thousands of cures, and millions of believers… but not much respect in the western world. We visited the FITA Traditional Medicine Museum in Saigon, to learn a little about the history of Vietnamese healing.