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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Discover The Islet's Land

Ben Tre is made up of three islets: Minh, Bao, An Hoa which are separated by four branches of Tien river (My Tho river, Ba Lai river, Ham Luong river and Co Chien river). As a product of Ben Tre Travel Joint Stock Co., the Mekong tour allows tourists to discover the beauty of rivers, canals and lush orchards on An Hoa islet. Joining this tour, visitors gather in Phong Phu tourist site located 14km north of Ben Tre town. After getting ashore from a Rach Mieu ferry, make a right turn and go for some 300m, one will see Phong Phu. 

Boarding the motor boat, go along Mieu Nho canal about 100m, one will catch sight of vast Tien river. Across the river is My Tho city (Tien Giang province). The boat quietly breaks waves on the river, east bound for Quoi An – a tourist site lying in the longan orchard of An Hoa islet. All houses here are roofed with nipa palm leaves while their walls, doors, windows, ridge beams, purlins, battens, and even rain gutters are all make out of coconut wood. 

This house displays many alien coconut species, tools for harvesting coconut fruits and around 200 products made of coconut wood. Next to it is the house of hand embroidery, covering 120m2 too, which is built in the shape of J (ding, 4th heavenly stem) character and included the main and secondary compartments. It was known that making this house required up to twenty over 30-year-old coconut trees with straight, smooth trunks and 12 meters in height of which 8 meters of their stumps were used for not being termite or worm-eaten. This house is mainly used for presenting Ben Tre’s hand embroidery products and selling coconut made handicrafts. 

Walking on the gravel path through the luxuriant orchard for about 150m, visitors set foot on the village path where 13 carriages are available. This kind of vehicle with plastic wheels was formerly used as a means to transport local agricultural products to the town market for sale. Today, they have been transformed in to “tourist vehicles” which are favorites of both domestic and foreign travelers. Such a ride costs 20,000 VND. 

Ben Truc tourist site, which is also located on An Hoa islet, has a band of amateur singers available performing several genres of southern traditional music for visitors. Under thatched camps, the sweet singing (of the amateur performers) penetrating into the hearts plus the sweet smelling of baby bananas, rambutans, green dragon fruits, pineapples with a cup of steaming hot honey tea make visitors feel more relaxed, almost carefree. Ben Truc also has twenty hand-rowing sampans which each is capable to carry 4-5 passengers. Both home and international tourists find it pleased to be served by a pretty girl rowing the sampan in ao ba ba (southern women’s traditional shirt that is long-sleeved, button-down, split at the sides of the waist forming two flaps and has two pockets at the very bottom of the front) with non la (palm-leaf conical hat) on the head. The boat cleaves through the water, making its way between two lines of verdant nipa palms showing off their brown globular seed clusters. The boat fee is 1,500 VND per person for groups and 3,000 VND for a single visitor. 

Tourists board back to Hao Ai restaurant. As coming near it, one will feel a bit puckish because of mouthwatering cooking aroma. As sitting at the table, on is served with ca tai tuong chien xu (giant gouramy deep-fried over high heat) with rice papers and green fresh vegetables, lau ca hu (mixed vegetables and pangasius conchophilus – a kind of catfish – hot pot), ca hu kho to (pangasius conchophilus braised in earthenware pot). These specialties are so tooth some that one may feel bewitched! After the meal, if you wish, you can rent a bicycle for a ride on the stone path under the shady trees. 

The restaurant has 30 mountain bikes for rent with 1 USD per ride. You can ride anywhere you like till the time to leave back.

(Mekong Delta Tourism Guidbook – VCCI Can Tho – www.vccimekong.com.vn)