An Giang Province, Vietnam: Places to Visit Around Chau Doc

In case you haven’t read my previous review of G5 Comfort Car that took me to Chau Doc from Ho Chi Minh City, then just know that Chau Doc became the second city I visited on my last trip to Vietnam. 

If I gotta be honest with you, I didn’t know anything about Chau Doc or An Giang Province before. The only reason I decided to go to Chau Doc was because sometime last year, I matched with a Vietnamese guy on OKCupid and I asked for his recommendation to visit around the Vietnam-Cambodia border.

At first, I was planning to stop by Phu Quoc before going to Cambodia. But since beaches are the main attractions in Phu Quoc and I recently came back from Bali, I’d rather visit a place with different things to offer. Even better if it’s one of the off the beaten track destinations in Vietnam.

Anyway, it was serendipity to match with this cute Vietnamese guy even though he stopped talking to me and removed me from Instagram for no reason after a while. Because guess what? I may not find my last visit to Vietnam as fantastic as the first one, but no doubt Chau Doc has now become one of my favorite cities in Vietnam!

Chau Doc, An Giang Province: The Nearby City in the Vietnam-Cambodia Border

An Giang Province, the land of seven mountains.
Tra Su cajuput forest.

I asked Linh, the Vietnamese guy I matched with through OkCupid, about the recommended city to stop around the border before I hit the road to Cambodia. At the time, I told him I was thinking about going to Phu Quoc but I was a bit hesitant.

First, because I just came back from Bali a couple of months before, and I’d assume that Phu Quoc would be full of Western tourists. At the time, I just wanted to see his opinion from a local’s point of view.

I have nothing against Western tourists, it’s just that sometimes the place that is full of them really doesn’t care about the struggle we travelers from developing countries have.

Mind you, I once spent IDR 30,000 (around $1.8 USD) for freaking corn in Nusa Penida and I was a bit annoyed as a local Indonesian myself because I could have bought around 6 corns elsewhere. Sure it’s super affordable for those with a full-time job and if you get paid $15 USD per hour, but I don’t!

The first picture Linh showed me about An Giang province was Tra Su bird sanctuary, and I fell in love at the first sight because I totally removed Phu Quoc from my itinerary and changed it into Chau Doc instead. 🙂 

How to Get to Chau Doc, An Giang Province

A view of Chau Doc city from the restaurant at my hotel.

There are 2 (two) main cities in An Giang Province that you can opt to stay around the province. Apart from Chau Doc, you can also stay in Long Xuyen City. If you’re interested to stay in the latter, just do your own research to know the pros and cons compared to Chau Doc. 

From Ho Chi Minh City, it’s relatively easy to find a mode of transportation to go to Chau Doc or Long Xuyen City. Even if you’re on the budget, you can find some bus options from Ho Chi Minh City to Chau Doc. You can buy the ticket in the nearest tour and travel operator in HCMC or book it in advance through booking sites like Easybook or Bookaway

I took around 6 hours to get to Chau Doc by a private car from HCMC, so if you’re planning to visit the city from HCMC, I’d recommend you to spare 8 hours on the road before planning out an itinerary to travel around the city. 

Why I’d Recommend You to Visit Chau Doc

One of the mosques I visited in Cham Village.

If I gotta be honest with you, I only listed some of the recommended places to visit in Chau Doc prior to my arrival. I didn’t know the detail about the city until I arrived, except the superficial reason for how beautiful Tra Su bird sanctuary looks like in the picture. 😛 

Apart from bordering with Cambodia, Chau Doc turns out to have such a lot of reasons why it’s worth visiting. First of all, it’s a perfect place to stop by if you’re planning to come from Cambodia or the other way around. In my case, I did the trip en route to Cambodia. 

There’s a lot of ferry options from Chau Doc directly to Phnom Penh. And there are also some bus options to several destinations in Cambodia. 

It was the place where the Chau Doc massacre took place during Vietnam War. And culture-wise, in the present the city is pretty much the golden triangle in Vietnam as it is where Vietnamese, Khmer, and Cham live together in harmony. 

5 Must-Visit Places Around Chau Doc City

I gotta admit, it’s quite challenging to plan out your own itinerary if you want to travel around Chau Doc City. When I went there, I was just planning to wing it on the first day to see where I could go.

I woke up late because I got some work to do on my first night in Chau Doc, and when I checked the tour availability in my hotel at 10 AM, they said that the tour started early at 8 in the morning.

It didn’t stop me from going out though, I took a motorbike taxi and only realized that I kinda got scammed because the price was super expensive compared to the tour offered by the hotel. Although to be fair, I didn’t really think much about it since what’s important for me is that I got to see around. 

If anything, I’d totally recommend you to just book the tour for a more convenient experience. 

1. Chau Giang, the Cham Village in Vietnam

The Grand Mosque in Cham Village.
Another mosque in Chau Giang.

Now that you know I was totally clueless about what’s in Chau Doc before I visited the city, I didn’t know that this is actually the area where Muslim lives in Vietnam. When I came here, I was fascinated. 

Yep, the main difference between Cham people in Chau Doc and the rest of Indochina is that Cham people in Chau Giang are Muslim.

Not only is it because I grew up Muslim so I felt some kind of connection with most people in Chau Giang, but also because I found out some fun facts that are related to Islam in Java, the island where I was born and bred, to Cham Village in Vietnam. 

So, most of you probably know that Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. How Islam spread around Java, it was credited to Wali Songo, Javanese words for “nine leaders”. These nine revered saints have the biggest role to spread Islam as a culture and religion around Java.

One of the religious leaders, known as Sunan Ampel, was a Champa. He was born in Chau Giang before coming to Java to spread Islam. 

If anything, I was a bit surprised when I arrived at the Grand Mosque in Chau Giang and found a few tombs written in Malay. I almost regret the fact that I couldn’t get in the tour for this Cham Village, because my motorbike taxi driver couldn’t speak English and we only communicated through Google translate. 

Anyway, even if you’re not into religious facts like that, you could also visit some weaving workshops in the village. You could even purchase their products for as low as $1 USD from purse to bags. If you’re into buying some souvenir to take home, this is the place! 🙂 

2. Sam Mountain

 
 
 
 
 
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Tay An Pagoda, Chau Doc.

I didn’t get a chance to hike to the top of Sam Mountain as I was a bit too late on the first day. Not to mention that it was a bit hard for me to communicate with my motorbike taxi. But it seems like Sam Mountain would be a great place to visit around Chau Doc with so many things to offer. 

The mountain is the tallest in An Giang Province, where you can see the landscape of the city from the top. There are also several temples around the mountain that you can visit. 

Even though I didn’t get a chance to climb to the top of the mountain, at least I visited a few temples around the foot of the mountain. Some on the list to visit are Ba Chua Xu Temple and Tay An Pagoda.

If you’re into folklore, there’s also an interesting story about Ba Chua Xu Temple. Ba Chua Xu, the Holy Mother of Realm of Vietnam’s Thanism, is worshipped in the temple. It is believed that the female statue was found in the forest back in the 6th century.

The villagers started to build the temple in her honor, although the statue couldn’t be removed, despite how many strong, health men tried to carry it. Until one day, one girl told everyone that the goddess statue needed to be carried by 9 virgin girls. So that’s what they did, and the statue became ‘light as feathers’.

In addition to that, there’s also Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb that is located not so far from Ba Chua Xu Temple. Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb, originally named Nguyen Van Thoai was the pioneer to exploit the virgin soil in the area and establish the living settlements in the city. 

Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb, Chau Doc.

3. Chau Doc’s Guan Yu Temple

Kuan Yin Goddess statue in Guan Yu Temple.

This temple is some kind of hit-or-miss, because it’s not really in the list of must-visit places in Chau Doc if you check it in some popular websites.

If anything, I only visited the temple because my motorbike taxi driver stopped here. It’s like, since I couldn’t go to the top of Sam Mountain , he brought me here to find the hidden gem. 

It’s a compound filled with a few temples. But not just that, it’s actually a nice place to just relax for a bit. There’s a building (I don’t know what building it is is, nor I dare to ask) around the lake full of lotus. It’s so beautiful. 

I mean, sure… If your objective is only to collect some instagrammable pictures for your feed, this temple will be a good one. Not only is it a good place to worship, but it also has an astonishing architecture and design. 

There’s one big temple in the center, which I assume to be the main temple in the compound. And there’s a smaller one on the side with the statue of Kuan Yin Goddess outside. As I came there only a few days before Tet holiday, I could see that they also put some New Year of Rat’s decoration around the temple. 

Guan Yu Temple.

4. Tra Su Cajuput Forest and Bird Sanctuary

Tra Su bird sanctuary.

Tra Su is located around 20 km from the city center. It took me around an hour to get there by motorbike on my second day in An Giang Province. 

This was the main reason why I stopped by An Giang Province… And for a good reason! 

My reason to visit An Giang may be so superficial, but I tell you what… I didn’t regret it. What you see in the pictures, it is actually THAT beautiful. Probably twice the pic even, because you could hear the birds singing with the breeze of air to breathe a little. It’s nice. 

After just winging it on the first day and ended up paying extra for some random motorbike taxi driver, I joined the tour provided by my hotel to Tra Su instead. For the motorbike taxi driver, it cost me VND 250,000 (around $10.6 USD).

As for the entrance ticket, I paid separately for VND 150,000 (around $6.4 USD) which include the entrance fee and the boat to get to the bird sanctuary. If you want to get around the bird sanctuary, you can rent another boat for VND 50,000 per person (around $2.1 USD). Lucky for me, since I traveled alone, I literally had a romantic stroll with the boat guy. LOL

Row, row your boat, gently down the stream…
Have you even been to Vietnam if you never wore the non la hat like this? As an Indonesian (Sundanese in particular), this conical hat isn’t that special because we also use it for the farmer. Only we call it dudukuy.

An hour ride to  Tra Su was a really fun trip for me personally. Not only because I got so excited to see it for myself, but it’s also full of beautiful scenery on my way there. From the rice field to cajuput forest. 

The motorbike driver that accompanied me to Tra Su, he speaks quite good English and he explained to me the difference between Vietnamese and Australian cajuput trees. To be honest, at first I didn’t even understand what cajuput is and why it’s so special except for how beautiful the trees are in the forest. 

That, until I googled and found out that it’s actually the family of Melaleuca species. I know I’ve heard that a lot, thanks for being a skincare enthusiast. And yep, it’s what you peasant call tea tree. That secret potion to heal your zits! 😉 

I mean, not only that I got to see the place where those beautiful pictures were taken, but I also know how tea tree looks like despite using the oil whenever it’s around that time of the month. Damn acnes! LOL

Apart from the boat rent, there are also some additional areas like bird-watching spots and some other instagrammable spots that you could enter with an additional fee. For the latter, the fee isn’t so expensive though, depends on which area you’d like to enter, the ticket starts from VND 15,000 to VND 30,000. 

5. Chau Doc City Center

Bassac River in Chau Doc.
Chau Pu Temple, Chau Doc city center.

I stayed in the city center when I was in Chau Doc, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the decision. I’ll definitely write a review on Hai Chau, the hotel where I stayed in Chau Doc. 

Staying around the city center is super convenient because you can comfortably stroll around the area, visit some temples, or check out the Chau Doc market.  Everything is within walking distance. I mean, sure you can also use Grab app if you prefer to use a motorbike, but distance-wise, it’s really not necessary. 🙂 

If you stay around the city center, you don’t even have to worry about what to eat because there’s plenty of options from restaurants, street food, and even a chain restaurant like Jollibee. It’s super convenient! 

So, those are the places that I’ve visited which I’d totally recommend if any of you are planning to visit Chau Doc once this quarantine is over. Or have you been there too? Tell me how you find the city in the comment below, and cheerio! 😉 


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