1. General Information
Chau Doc is located in the northwest part of the Mekong Delta, close to the river border of Vietnam and Cambodia, about 250 km west of Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon). All tourists who want to visit Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and continue the trip to Phnom Penh without coming back to Saigon are highly recommended to stay at least one night in Chau Doc. The city lies between the Hau Giang river, a branch of the Mekong River, and the man-made Vinh Te Canal.
Even being a little town, Chau Doc is one of the two cities in An Giang province that play important roles in the economic development of the Mekong Delta due to its strategic position.
Moreover, Chau Doc is known for many other great things such as beautiful scenery, cultural diversity and a transit point to Cambodia. From Chau Doc, tourists can access to Cambodia via Vinh Xuong river border crossing and Tinh Bien International Border Gate.
2. Best time to visit Chau Doc?
Like other places in the northwest part of the Mekong Delta, Chau Doc is affected by tropical monsoon climate, and experiences two prominent seasons: wet and dry season. The wet season is from May until November; the dry season is from December until April. In general, the weather in Chau Doc is suitable to visit all year round. In the rainy season, Chau Doc receives heavy rain from the beginning of May but that’s the perfect time to feel the daily life of Chau Doc people in high water season. The dry season in Chau Doc, is usually sunny and hot, but the temperature is not too high and it does not interfere too much with the tourism.
3. How to get to Chau Doc?
Chau Doc is about 245 km from Ho Chi Minh City and 120 km from Can Tho.
• From Ho Chi Minh City: you can buy a bus ticket at Mien Tay bus station to reach Chau Doc or Long Xuyen city. It will take around 5-6 hours driving. Some recommended local buses are Phuong Trang, Thao Nguyen, Hung Cuong, Trong Tin Limousine… The ticket price is about 150,000 – 250,000 VND/ one way. This long journey may make you tired so if you have more time, you should combine the trip with floating market in Can Tho.
• From Can Tho: you can also catch a local bus at Can Tho station to get to Chau Doc. The journey is shorter, about 3 hours, and the ticket is cheaper, about 100,000 – 200,000 VND/ one way.
• From Danang, Hanoi: You can book the air ticket with Vietnam Airlines or Vietjet Air from Hanoi or Danang to Tra Noc Airport (in Can Tho). On arrival to Can Tho, you can choose local bus or hire private transfer for nearly 3 hour drive to Chau Doc.
* Private cars/vans: If taking the trip Legend of Mekong with Vietnam Travel’s professional tour guides and carefully private drivers, tourists will have chance to immerse in the sublime beauty of Mekong & its river life in Can Tho and Chau Doc, as well as taking boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh on the way to explore Kingdom of Cambodia.
4. Means of transportation in Chau Doc
• Bus: Chau Doc is a small town so the most popular places are not far from each other, so bicycle or motorbike are often used rather than buses. However, you can experience local bus to get closer look to local life. The bus station is located on Le Loi Street, near Chau Doc Tourist Wharf. The bus has stop at Sam Mountain, one of the most famous tourist attractions in Chau Doc.
• Taxi: If you want to take a taxi to get around the town, you can contact some of trustworthy taxi companies as below:
Taxi Mai Linh – Tel: 0296 3922266 – 0296 38383838
Taxi Sài Gòn Hoàng Long – Tel: 0296 3688688
Taxi Long Xuyên – Tel: 0296 3858788
Taxi Đức Thành – Tel: 0296 3852403
Taxi Sao Đỏ Long Xuyên An Giang – Tel 0296 3676767
Taxi Vinasun An Giang – Tel 0296 3872872
• Bike/Motorbike: You can rent bicycles or motorbikes at the tour desks in your hotel or local shops. Rental fee is around 5 – 10 USD per day (excluding petrol). Visiting the center of Chau Doc by bike/motorbike is also a great experience to try.
• Pedicab (or Xe Lôi in Vietnamese): The pedicab service used to be the most common and famous mode of public transportation in the Mekong Delta. Consisting of a normal bicycle with a large two-wheeled trailer attached to it where passengers sit, it is locally known as Xe Lôi or Xe Đạp Lôi. But with the introduction of more modern and even cheaper vehicles for hire recently, the traditional service is in serious danger of being totally obliterated.
• Boat, ferry: To visit some areas such as Bung Binh Thien, fishing village, Cham village in Chau Giang, you will need water transport. You can pick up a ferry or charter boat at Chau Doc Tourist Port (Address: No.3 Le Loi Street, Chau Phu Ward, Chau Doc).
The speedboat boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh leaves daily at 07:30 AM and takes around six hours to reach the Khmer capital. There are multiple operators who run this service, but the most popular one is Hang Chau Speedboat with ticket fee at US$27 for one way journey.
5. Attractions in/around Chau Doc
Chau Doc is worth visiting and most tourists usually stay there for 2-3 days, not only enjoy beautiful landscape but also immerse into unique local life. A likeable little town with significant Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities, Chau Doc’s cultural diversity – apparent in the mosques, temples, churches and nearby pilgrimage sites – makes it fascinating to explore even if you’re not Cambodia-bound.
5.1. Sam Mountain
The main attraction in Chau Doc is the Sam Mountain, which is about 6km to the west of Chau Doc Town, and at the height of 230m with beautiful landscapes and many historic remains. On the way to the foot of mountain, there are rice paddy fields stretching along the road’s two sides. The mountain is mainly well-known as a sacred place for Buddhists with dozens of pagodas and temples. A strong Chinese influence makes it particularly popular with ethnic Chinese. Moreover, temples at the base and surrounds can illustrate Islamic, Indian and Khmer influences.
While climbing up to the summit, don’t forget to visit temples and pagodas dotted around the foot of the mountain, such as Ba Chua Xu Temple, Tay An Pagoda, Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb. Chua Xu Festival is annually held on the second half of the 4th lunar month and attracts lots of worshippers all over the country. If weather permits, the views from the top are spectacular and Cambodia can be easily looked out from there.
5.2. Chau Doc Floating Market
Even not as popular as the most well-known Cai Be or Cai Rang floating market, Chau Doc floating market with the unique features of the An Giang river still a must see place for tourists while they are in Chau Doc. Locals rarely use the phrase “Chau Doc floating market” but more familiar with the words “take a boat” (or “ra ghe” in Vietnamese). These are short words to refer to the trading activities in Chau Doc floating market. Especially when coming to this market, the sellers do not offer the goods by sales pitch, but by hanging the selling products up to the high pole (“bẹo hàng” in Vietnamese). By this way, the buyer can easily see what they are looking for from far distance. The most abundant and characterized products in Chau Doc floating market is local tropical fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget to get up early to visit the market at its busiest time between 6 – 7 am.
5.3. Chau Giang Cham Village
Known as the famous village of Cham community in An Giang province, Chau Giang Cham Village attracts tourist by the ethnic character and the cultural factors. For those who want to learn about Cham ethnic culture and people, this destination must be included in their trip to Chau Doc. Wooden stilt houses are the outstanding architectures in this village. The stilt houses here are small and made of precious wood with high level of durability. There is a wooden ladder leading to the entrance door. The entrance door is lower than the guest’s head, which implies that the guest must bow to the host before entering.
Most of the villagers are Muslim and they have their own praying venue called Mubarak Mosque. Mubarak is one of the oldest mosques of the Muslim community of Cham people in An Giang, and it lures many tourists to explore the culture and religion as well as architecture. Visitors are permitted, but should avoid entering during the calls to prayer (five times daily) unless they are a Muslim.
5.4. Tra Su Cajuput Forest
Tra Su cajuput forest, also referred to as Tra Su flooded forest, Tra Su mangrove forest, Tra Su bird sanctuary or Tra Su Melaleuca forest, is located in Van Giao commune, Tinh Bien district, about 23 kilometers away from Chau Doc City. For those who love the beauty of wild nature, Tra Su is an ideal place to explore the typical ecosystem of Mekong Delta. Setting foot in Tra Su cajuput forest, you will have an opportunity to enjoy memorable moments when animals, nature, and the wholesome atmosphere live in harmony. The forest blows your mind with a number of cajuput trees, wild animals, and more than 70 species of birds (like egrets, water cocks, cormorants, peafowl, storks, so on). Especially in flood season, the forest is dressed up with the appealing look of the green carpet of duckweed covering the whole large area.
5.5. Forbidden Mountain
Forbidden Mountain, also known as “Thiên Cấm Sơn” in Vietnamese, is located in An Hao Commune, Tinh Bien district. With an altitude of about 710m above sea level, that is the highest mountain of the Seven Mountain Range in Mekong Delta. With a cool year-round climate, Forbidden Mountain is considered as Dalat (the famous highland resort in Vietnam’s Central Highland) and always covered by the green forests and countless blooming flowers. You can choose to spend a night at Forbidden Mountain to fully enjoy the peaceful silence and the cool breeze of the mountainous areas.
In addition, the mountain also owns magnificent religious architecture such as Asia’s largest Maitreya Buddha Statue with the height of 34 meters.
5.6. The Lê Công “100 Years Old Big House”
In Chau Doc, everyone can show you the way to the ‘Big House’ of the Le Cong clan in Le Loi Street. It’s located opposite to Victoria Chau Doc Hotel – the most luxurious accommodation in this small town. The house was built from 1909 to 1912 and it was named as “Big House” because it was the largest house in town at that time. It is an interesting combination of designs: French-influenced exterior with solid window panes, tile roofs and intricate ornamental decorations; and Western styled interior with lustres and floor tiles. An amazing fact about the house is that it was not made of concrete but of shell powder, sand, treacle and lindera myrrha resin. The furniture and utensils are made with nacre or mother-of-pearl. The wood was bought from Laos and Cambodia. For the nacre, wild snails and masters of the craft were brought in from the North because there was no trade in the South at that time. All throughout, Asian design is dominant, intelligently and beautifully blended in with foreign architecture.
According to the clan’s history, Lord Le Cong Thoan from Thanh Hoa Province arrived at Chau Doc with his wife and decided to settle there. They tilled the land, gave money to the poor, donated land to the homeless and built communes and schools for everyone in town. The couple had such good hearts that the king accorded Lord Le Cong Thoan with the highly-esteemed decrees as a sign of gratitude and honour.
Chau Doc has ten other century-old houses but the “Big House” of the Le Cong clan is the only one that still stands as strong as it did when it was first built, proof that Asian architecture, and culture in general, is exceptionally stable and beautiful; which should be proud of all over the world.
5.7. Cow Racing Festival
If tourists visit Chau Doc in the period of Sene Dolta Day of Khmer People in Mekong Delta (from the 9th to the 10th day in Lunar Calendar), they can participate in the Cow Racing Festival. This festival has existed for a long time in the Seven Mountains Region of An Giang Province with the purpose of expressing gratitude toward ancestors.
The unique and interesting point of cow racing is two cows are tied by a special rake. After the signal whistle of referee, the driver will hit into the cows’ asses with a tow. However, this driver must be very skillful in hitting two cows with the same energy to make them run with the same speed. According to the rule, pair of cows running out of the racing course must get out of the competition. In addition, the driver must stand steadily on the rake because falling out of the rake will be considered loser. The pair of cows trampling on the rake of the front pair will be the winner.
During the race, pairs of cows and their drivers are always encouraged and urged by the inspiring and exciting atmosphere of simmering cheers and applause. Coming to Cow Racing Festival, tourists will experience unique cultural festival which are only can be seen in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
5.8. Tapa rice paddy
Just 1-and-a-half-hour drive by private car from Chau Doc you will get to Ta Pa hills in Tri Ton district, An Giang. Right at the foot of this hill, there is a spectacular view of the rice field. Some local photographers come for nice shot from above of the rice field dotted with palm trees. You could come any time of the year but the best view is from August to early of December.
6. Accommodations in Chau Doc
6.1. Victoria Chau Doc Hotel
Category: 4.5 star standard.
Address: No.1 Le Loi Street, Chau Doc Town, Chau Doc City, An Giang Province.
Situated on the banks of Bassac River and close to the speedboat pier, the beautiful Indochina-inspired Victoria Chau Doc Hotel offers cozy accommodation with river views in perfect harmony with the natural surroundings. The hotel features a riverfront outdoor swimming pool from where guests can watch the ever-changing scenery, especially in sunset moments. The hotel has 92 wooden-floored rooms, including 4 suites, most offering spectacular river views. Rooms combine the elegance of traditional Vietnamese handicrafts with turn-of-the-century old world charm. Guests can unwind in the hotel’s many beautiful spaces including the Bassac Restaurant overlooking the Bassac River and the stylish Tan Chau Salon Bar, bot with indoor and outdoor seating. This hotel is the best and most expensive accommodation in Chau Doc.
6.2. Victoria Nui Sam Lodge
Category: 3.5 star standard.
Address: Vinh Sam 1 Stress, Nui Sam Ward, Chau Doc City, An Giang Province.
Victoria Nui Sam Lodge belongs to the same holding group with Victoria Chau Doc Hotel, but offers cheaper room rates for mid-ranged budget travelers. The hotel is located on the flank of the granite Sam Mountain in the heart of the Mekong Delta. Staying there, passengers can enjoy exceptional views over the paddy fields below stretching all the way to Cambodia. One of the most scenic pools in all of Vietnam, Victoria Nui Sam Lodge’s infinitive pool commands unobstructed views over the surrounding valley making it the ideal place for yoga and tai chi or to simply relax.
The lodge has 40 bungalows, all with a private terrace or balcony overlooking the paddy fields, featuring terracotta tiled floors, comfortable, stylish furniture and authentic decorative fabrics. La Giang Restaurant at the hotel serves local Vietnamese dishes along with Asian and Western taste. The genuine friendliness and hospitality of the people of the Mekong Detla embodied by the hotel’s staff, which makes each stay truly a truly personal experience.
6.3. Chau Pho Hotel
Category: 3 star standard.
Address: 88 Trung Nu Vuong Street, Chau Doc City, An Giang Province.
Chau Pho Hotel is located at the center of Chau Doc City which is the best 3-star hotels in Chau Doc City. Just 15 minutes’ drive from Chau Pho Hotel to tourist sites and historical – cultural sites such as Sam Mountain, Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb, Tay An Pagoda, Champa Village, Chau Pho is often chosen for budget foreign tourists for one night stay in Chau Doc. At the hotel, you will find all the rooms are equipped with a flat-screen cable TV, a desk, and a minibar. There is also a seating area and a private bathroom with shower, hairdryer, and free toiletries.
7. Chau Doc’s Special Cuisine
7.1. Chau Doc fish rice noodles (Bún cá Châu Đốc)
The most famous dish in Chau Doc is fish rice noodles with the stronger taste than other places. To make the sauce in the water bowl but not left the fishy smell, the artisan cook here experienced through life. They must have the secret to keep the bouillon sweet and not stinking. In addition to the goldfish broccoli, the chef also adds pork rolls, spinach meat with vegetables. Take a piece of fish sauce having the sugar with chopped chili, then take a spoon of water to enjoy all the deliciousness of this dish.
7.2. Steamed palm sugar rice cake (Bánh bò thốt nốt)
The steamed palm sugar rice cake is hot, combined with the sweetness of palm sugar, the coconut, mixed with the aroma of the jaggery is an unforgettable experience for diners. This is a specialty that should not be missed when visiting Chau Doc.
7.3. A special kind of beef sausage (Tung lò mò or Lạp xưởng bò)
This is the traditional dishes of the Cham people in An Giang. The name “tung lò mò” was originated from Cham language “tung laomaow”. “Tung” means intestine, “laomaow” means cow. This beef sausage is made from the intestines, fat, and cow’s thighs that have been cut up from the bone. After deodorizing with alcohol and ginger, the cook mixes the beef in proportion with the traditional spices of the Cham people. Then they stuff this mixture into cow’s gut and expose to sunlight for 3-4 days. The most delicious “tung lò mò” is grilled on the charcoal stove with cinnamon, papaya, cilantro and dipping sauce.
7.4. Typical dishes made from sesbania sesban flowers (Bông điên điển)
Sesbania sesban flowers are the popular ingredients for many dishes of Chau Doc people, especially in floating season. They can be cooked with sour soup, pickled or served as raw vegetables. When coming to An Giang in the rising season, tourists are highly suggested to try sesban flower sour soup. You will taste the sweet of the vegetable and fish, the sour of the tamarind and the spicy that the chili brings about.
Locals also use sesban flowers to make fried shrimps or traditional pancakes. A bowl of sesban flower sour soup and a pancake are the best combination.
7.5. Fermented seafood (Mắm)
Chau Doc is known as the capital of fermentation, or mắm in Vietnamese, and locals use many spices to preserve various kinds of seafood. Vietnamese usually eat mắm with rice. It tastes slightly sweet at first, but has a salty aftertaste.
The best place to find and try this dish is Chau Doc Market.
7.6. Indica Salad (Gỏi sầu đâu)
In Chau Doc, the bitter “lá sầu đâu” (or Azadirachta Indica leaf) is one of the most favorite vegetables to eat with braised fish, braised pork, macerated fish and steamed macerated fish. However, the best way to enjoy “lá sầu đâu” is to make salads. Collecting the early leaves and the flowers, the chef will clean them and soak the leaves and flowers with boiling water to reduce the bitterness. If you like the bitterness to be intact, you can put the leaves in ice so they can be a bit crunchier. After that, the chef will mix the leaves with boiled shredded bacon, steamed shrimps, dried fish, some slices of raw mangos, a few slices of cucumber, coriander and peanut. The most important part is the sweet-n-sour tamarind sauce. The Indica salad can be eaten with white rice, snakehead rice vermicelli, fish jam or the dangila. The fat of the bacon, the salty of the fish, the sweet of the shrimp, the sour of mango, and last but not least, the bitterness of the Indica leaf are combined to create one of the most special dishes in Chau Doc – An Giang. A dish likes no other.
7.7. Famous Seven dishes from beef (Bò bảy món núi Sam)
After visiting Sam mountain, tourists can make a short stop to taste the famous seven-dishes of beef, which are boiled tripe, boiled meat with rice vermicelli cake, cow’s head porridge, grilled beef with bread, fried beef with Aganonerion, beefsteak, and roasted beef.
Among the seven dishes, the chefs of Sam Mountain take pride in the fried beef with Aganonerion the most. The dish is a combination of the sweet of the beef, the sweet sour of the Aganonerion leaves, the spicy of the pepper, and the fat of the peanut and coconut. The dish also has a special dipping sauce. The soybean sauce mixed with some ingredients and chopped lemongrass are the perfect companion with the fried beef. The boiled tripe is also a delicacy. The boiled tripe will have an ivory white color, and the dish is dipped with crab sauce with some garlic, chili, and lemon. Putting the tripe into the boiling hot pot, and dipping the slice of tripe into the sauce, you will instantly feel the crunchiness and softness of the gut, the liver, the lung of the cow.