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A Weekend in Ben Tre

By: Tim Russell Posted: July-17-2009 in
Ben Tre Vietnam - Photo - Tim Russell
Tim Russell

Walk into any tour operator in Saigon & ask for a 1 or 2-day Mekong Delta trip, & chances are they’ll all propose exactly the same itinerary, involving My Tho, Vinh Long, a couple of ersatz ‘tourist villages’ (a term that fills me with horror!), an unsatisfying lunch, and back to Saigon before you’ve even caught your breath.

If you’ve never been to the Delta before it’s still a fascinating experience, but being rushed around a well-trodden tourist trail isn’t really what the Delta is all about. Fortunately the new Rach Mieu bridge, which links Tien Giang province to Ben Tre, has made it quicker and easier to get off the tourist trail and into some real Delta exploring.

I know Ben Tre well as my wife grew up there and her family live near the former ferry dock at Rach Mieu - now rendered superfluous by the bridge which has shaved off at least 40 minutes from the journey time to/from Saigon. You can now drive to Ben Tre province in less than 2 hours, making it a feasible alternative to the usual Delta tour.

So last weekend I headed down for a couple of days, whizzing over the new bridge and enjoying the specacular views from the top. The best way to explore Ben Tre province is either by renting a motorbike, or using pedal power - we can arrange mountain bike hire in Rach Mieu, and the flat, quiet roads make for ideal cycling. Once you’ve got your wheels, it’s just a case of idling along the roads, through sleepy villages. Narrow lanes off the main roads often lead to tiny hamlets or hidden temples, and the scenery is always green and fringed with palm trees.

Well worth exploring are the narrow country lanes around Rach Mieu and Giong Trom, and of course Ben Tre town itself, with its bustling riverside market. Cross over the bridge to the other side of the river and you’ll find more quiet country lanes. It’s idyllic, typically tropical countryside, and even better, you’re unlikely to come across another tourist all day.

Eating and drinking are cheap here - an iced coffee costs around 5,000VND (less than 30c) - and if you want to stay overnight, the few hotels and guesthouses in the province are much, much cheaper than those across the river. Alternatively, we can arrange a homestay to give you a real taste of Delta life.

Tim Russell is a long term expat in Vietnam - More of his travel writings can be found here on his blog


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