Chau Doc on the edge of the Mekong Delta is the stepping stone to Vietnam for travellers arriving from Cambodia. We arrived on the back of motorbikes that had collected us at the Cambodia/Vietnam border near the town of Tinh Bien which is 30km from Chau Doc (see Vietnam-Cambodia border crossings).
They dropped us at the very nice Trung Nguyen Hotel which overlooks the main market in the town centre. Nice, clean rooms with very helpful receptionist at just $10 a night. Another good budget option is the Thuan Loi Hotel which is right on the river where the ferry from Phnom Penh docks. The Song Sao Hotel is a good mid-range option located almost next to a small bookshop called ‘the English Bookstore’. The charming owner loves to practice his English and will take you on private tours of the river.
The town is a busy, lively place with few tourists so not much hassle other than cyclos wanting to take you to Sam Mountain. It was good to be back in Vietnam again and a spicy lunch at Bay Bong restaurant was a nice change for the many coconut based dishes on the Cambodian menu.
Chau Doc Boat Trips
As you walk along the Bassac River towards the grandiose Victoria hotel you’ll find no end of people trying to get you to hire their little boat to go out and see the fish farms which are common here. At around $2 an hour this isn’t a bad way to experience river life but go early in the morning so that you can catch the river market.
Instead we chose to take a tour with the owner of the ‘English Bookstore’. We met at his shop at 7am and walked down to the river where his friend’s boat was waiting for us. First of all we headed south east along the river beyond the Victoria Hotel and met up with the approaching floating market. Our boat got right into the action and we were able to step onto one of the trader’s boats as they sold all manner of fresh fruits and vegetables.
From here we crossed the river and went to see the floating fish farm houses which have fish cages under the living area. We then visited a Cham village and its mosque before returning to Chau Doc. This 2.5 hour private tour cost us just $7 for the two of us.
The other main tourist attraction of Chau Doc is Sam Mountain which is 6km from town so you’ll need some transport. On our first night we were ‘stalked’ by one of the cyclo riders who seemed to pop up no matter which street we were on. He wanted $5 to take us to the mountain so we agreed to meet him the next afternoon and head there for sunset.
The cyclo rider picked us up at 3.30pm arriving with his wife and Downs syndrome daughter. The poor bloke works 24 hours a day to support his family as as his wife has to stay at home to look after their child. They could put her in a government school but then they’d never see her again. The cyclo man just puts his situation down to Lord Buddha and just gets on with it with a big smile on his face. A lesson to us all!
A couple of moped riders gave us a push on the way to the base of Sam Mountain then our man showed us around Tay An Pagoda, the Temple of Lady Xu and the Tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau. The moped drivers then took us to the top of Sam Mountain (for a small fee) then waited for us so that we could watch the sunset over the endless padi fields with Cambodia in the distance.
It was a hard cycle back in the dark without the help of the mopeds, even more so when we got a puncture. When we paid the rider more than he’d asked for and paid for his puncture to be repaired ($7.50 in total) he seemed quite concerned and informed us that we’d given him more than we’d agreed and wanted to be sure that we were aware of it!