CHAU DOC – HA TIEN (PART 6 – FINAL)

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August 8, 2010 – Last day of tour

After breakfast at Hon Trem Resort, we visited Hon Chong, a beach area about 30km away from Ha Tien. Previously known for its unspoiled beach… I can’t say the same about it now. Maybe it was the area we were at, maybe it was the weather, but the water was so dark, it was brown.

At Hon Chong, we made a stop at Chua Hang (Hang Grotto/Pagoda), also known as Chua Hai Son (Sea Mountain Temple).

Hon Chong is also very famous for Hon Phu Tu (Father and Son Islet) – limestone formations accompanied by an interesting fable.

According to fable, in the old day, in this coast there was a beast which often overturned the boats to eat the fishermen. At that time there was a fisherman living with his son  beside the foot of An Hai mountain, next to Hang pagoda. The father was very angry when seeing the beast killing innocent inhabitants for food every day. He decided to kill this rude monster to save peace for everyone. But there was no way to kill this beast except for sacrificing his life. One  day he poisoned himself  and  laid near the marine edge to lure the beast. Seeing the man, the beast ate his head at once, then died because of the poison from the fisherman’s head. The son didn’t see his father  so he  went to many places to find his dad. Seeing his father’s body without head on the beach, he embraced  the body and  cried distressfully. Unfortunately, the poison from his father’s body permeated to his and then he died because of poison too. It was getting dark with strong winds, and it rained heavily during many days. After the rain stopped, the inhabitants saw two stones, a big one and small one,  right in the place where the father and his son had laid. It was said that the big one was the father and another was his son. Then these stones were called Phu Tu Islet. In Vietnamese “Phu” means “a father” and “Tu” means “a child”. (Source)

In 2006, the father stone broke off and fell into the sea. Some restoration works have been planned by Kien Giang authorities but the locals still think the incident is another chapter in the legend, signifying that the father is becoming older and needs his son’s protection (Source).


Before Hon Phu Tu broke off, it used to look like THIS

We checked out of our resort around noon and started heading back to Phung Hiep (home!). On the way back, we stopped by Rach Gia, also a city in Kien  Giang Province, to visit a shrine dedicated to Nguyen Trung Truc. He was a fisherman who led led village militia forces which fought against French colonial forces in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam in the 1860s (more info here). Our last stop before going home!

Arrived back in Phung Hiep in the evening of August 8, 2010

Memorable trip, despite bad weather and less interesting tour visits! I apologize if any history/background I gave about sites visited are wrong… it’s hard to find accurate and complete information online, especially in English!

CHAU DOC – HA TIEN (PART 5)

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August 8, 2010 (Ha Tien, Hon Trem Resort)

My cousins promised me the night before they would wake up at 4:00am to watch the sun rise with me… lies!

I was even more saddened because there was no sunrise 😦 The skies were so cloudy, no sunshine broke through. So sad! Around 5ish, my cousins finally wake up and join me outside our resort, I proceed to take a lot of pictures…

Everyone finally woke up and we headed over to the resort restaurant for breakfast

Met our tour guide and driver after breakfast for our last day!

CHAU DOC – HA TIEN (PART 4)

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August 7, 2010 (Ha Tien)

Lying just 8km from the Cambodian border, Ha Tien is on the Gulf of Thailand and all around the area are lovely, towering limestone formations, which support a network of caves, some of which have been turned into temples.

Ha Tien was a province of Cambodia until 1708. During the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian forces repeatedly attacked the Vietnamese territory and massacred thousands of civilians here. The entire populations of Ha Tien and nearby villages (in fact, tens of thousands of people) had to flee their homes.

The town is tiny with not many places to see despite its colourful history. (Source)

We first stopped to visit Chua Phu Dung (Phu Dung Pagoda):

This pagoda was founded in the mid- 18th century by Mac Thien Tich’s (Mac Cuu’s son, see below) wife, Nguyen Thi Xuan.

We then headed up to see Lang Mac Cuu (Mac Cuu Family Tombs):

Mac Cuu was the provincial governor under the waning Khmer rule… there is a lot of history on him and his clan which you can read here. Known locally as Nui Lang, the Hill of the Tombs. Several dozen relatives of Mac Cuu are buried here in traditional Chinese tombs decorated with figures of dragon phoenixes, lions and guardians (Source).

Luckily there was shelter near the tombs because as soon as we got up there, it started pouring.

We then went Thach Dong (Thach Dong Cave Pagoda):

Also known as Chua Thanh Van, this is a sub terranean Buddhist temple. Several of the chambers contain funerary tablets and altars to Ngoc Hoang, Quan The Am Bo Tat and the two Buddhist monks who founded the temples of this pagoda. The wind here creates extraordinary sounds as it blows through the grotto’s passageways. Openings in several branches of the cave afford views of nearby Cambodia. (Source)

A beach visit was next on our itinerary – Mui Nai. Unfortunately, with dark sand and storm season, the ocean water was very murky and pretty dirty. On top of that, it was a rainy day and no sunshine was in sight 😦 The ocean, however, was quite shallow for quite a distance, so it was fun frolicking until the sand in our pants got to us.

Checked into Hon Trem Resort (****) and chilled for the rest of the night.

CHAU DOC – HA TIEN (PART 3)

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August 7, 2010 (Day 2 of our tour)

Still in Chau Doc! Woke up (Chau Pho Hotel) and had breakfast at our hotel before heading out to Chau Doc Pier. From there, we traveled out to visit a floating fish farm as well as a Cham minority people/weaving village.

On the way, we passed by Chau Doc’s floating market! For those who are unfamiliar, it’s pretty much a market on the water! Sellers and buyers congregate around in boats to exchange/buy goods. It is pretty easy to tell what each boat is selling. Owners will usually string or prop up their merchandise at the nose of their boat for all to see. There are also people in smaller boats who go around selling ready to eat foods and drinks. It was pretty neat as this was my first time seeing a floating market.

Continuing on our way…

We soon arrived at one of the many floating fish farms in the area. You are allowed to come in and there is a humongous container of food which you can feed the fish from. The process goes somewhat like this: Scoop up a bucket of food, dump, run for your life before you get splashed by thousands of fish. We did a few rounds of trying to dump food in all 3 sections, but failed miserably because the fish are so fast/eager to eat the food. We did, however, eventually get it. On my turn, I slipped and almost went flying into the water… wonder what would’ve happened! Eaten alive by fish? Quite possibly.

Got back on the boat and headed over to the Cham minority people village!

Arrived…

And that concludes our tour of Chau Doc as we hit the road to Ha Tien! We left Chau Doc at around 9:00am I think… reaching Ha Tien at around noonish…. I think….

CHAU DOC – HA TIEN (PART 2)

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August 6, 2010 – Continued…

After lunch, we continued on our way to Chau Doc, arriving there around 1:00pm.

We stopped to visit 3 locations before checking into our hotel…

First up, Tay An Co Tu (Tay An Pagoda):

Renowned for the fine carving of its hundreds of religious figures, most of which are made of wood. Aspects of the building’s architecture reflect Hindu and Islamic influences. Tay An was last rebuilt in 1958.

The main gate is of traditional Vietnamese design. Above the roof are figures of lions and two dragons fighting for possession of pearls, chrysanthemums, apricot trees and lotus blossoms. Nearby is a statue of Quan Am Thi Kinh, the Guardian Spirit of Mother and Child. In front of the pagoda are statues of a black elephant with two tusks and a while elephant with six tusks. Around the pagoda are monks’ tombs. Inside are Buddha statues adorned with psychedelic disco lights. (Source)

We then walked over to Mieu Ba Chua Xu (Temple of Lady Xu): No photography/video was allowed in the temple

Founded in the 1820s, the Temple of Lady Xu faces Sam Mountain, not far from Tay An Pagoda. The first building  was made of bamboo and leaves and established at the beginning of the 19th century in Vinh Te Hamlet, Chau Doc Town. There are two legends about its construction.

The first legend is that the Temple of Ba Chua Xu was built because the people here believed Ba Chua Xu to be sacred.

The second legend relates that Madam Chau Thi Te, the wife of Thoai Ngoc Hau (see below), the buider of the Vinh Te canal, swore to erect a temple when the canal, whose construction claimed many lives, was completed. She died before carrying out her oath. Thoai Ngoc Hau implemented her plans by building the Temple of Ba Chua Xu.

According to legend, the statue of Lady Xu used to stand at the summit of Sam Mountain. In the early 19th century Siamese troops invaded the area and, impressed with the statue, decided to take it back to Thailand. But as they carried the statue down the hill, it became heavier and heavier, and they were forced to abandon it by the side of the path. (Source 1, Source 2)

After visiting the temple, we climbed up Sam Mountain (it was too hot, we didn’t last too long before crawling back down) before visiting the other buildings belonging to the temple.

Finally, we stopped at Lang Thoai Ngoc Hau (Tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau):

A high-ranking official, Thoai Ngoc Hau (1761-1829) served the Nguyen Lords and, later, the Nguyen dynasty.

The tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau is the most grandiose structure at the foot of Mount Sam in Chau Doc Town. It is dedicated to Thoai Ngoc Hau and his two wives. Thoai Ngoc Hau was a famous general of the Nguyen Dynasty, who directed the digging of the Vinh Te and Thoai Ha canals in order to develop agriculture, and the opening of the path from Chau Doc to Sam Mount and from Chau Doc to Lo Go and Soc Trang. He contributed greatly to the reclamation of the lands south-west of Viet Nam.

The tomb area has a harmonious architecture style, surrounded by thick walls made of stone. In the middle of the platform are the tombs and temple of Thoai Ngoc Hau and his two wives. Nearby, there are seceral tombs of the officials who helped Thoai Ngoc Hau reclaim land and dig the Vinh Te Canal. Thoai Ngoc Hau tomb was completed in the late 20s of the 19th century. Its charm and magnificence is well preserved. It is an architectural construction of great historical significance. (Source 1, Source 2)

After all this, we checked into our hotel, Chau Pho Hotel (***) and just chilled until dinner. Unfortunately, it was pouring after we finished dinner so we just picked up some dessert and went back to the hotel. The kids hung out and chatted until bed 🙂 The end of DAY 1 – August 6, 2010

CHAU DOC – HA TIEN (PART 1)

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Our family invited Hia Bo & Cuoi (Chet Vu’s kids) as well as Thanh (Chet Quang’s daughter) to join us on a 3 day tour to Chau Doc and Ha Tien. The trip was short, but the memories were plenty!

It was unfortunate that the weather was rainy pretty much the entire time though… definitely missed out on some tanning!

We were picked up in Phung Hiep on August 6 at 5:00am by TST Tourist. A tour guide (named CUP), a 12 seat van and its driver (named Tuan) greeted us bright and early and we headed out. We stopped in Can Tho for breakfast at Ninh Kieu 2 Hotel before continuing on.

On the way, we stopped at Vuon Co Bang Lang (Bang Lang’s Stork Garden/Sanctuary), home to a huge number of storks, that for unknown reasons came to dwell. There was bird poop everywhere, the entire area was literally white. I even got some dropped on my hand! The visit wasn’t anything extraordinary, but still neat to see the attempt at preserving something natural. During our time up in the look out, we also saw a few Vietnamese residents with baller cameras and lenses trying to capture that picture perfect stork.

Another overnight trip to Can Tho…

… on August 9-10, 2010

For the same reason as before, my mom had another dentist appointment for adjustments.

This time we stayed at Ninh Kieu 2 (****) Hotel, also good place for pretty decent price. Before going back to Phung Hiep, Ba Vu and Di Hanh treated us to dinner which consisted of a ton of seafood including those oc len (snails) cooked in coconut dish that my mom couldn’t eat at the restaurant the other night. Everything was delicious but unfortunately, we were all experiencing weak stomachs so didn’t dare eat a lot!

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Back in Can Tho…

… the next day on August 4, 2010!

Our family and Thanh went to Can Tho for 2 days and 1 night for my mom’s dentist appointment and to visit family.

We arrived in the late afternoon and went to visit Ba Vu and Di Hanh. In the evening, we went with Di Hanh for dinner at “La Cà” Restaurant. It was pretty good except for one dish – a kind of coiled shell mollusk (similar to snail) called “Oc Len” cooked in coconut. We had a batch of dead snails… my mom had an awfully foul one. The poor woman.

We stayed the night at Ninh Kieu 4 (***) Hotel, it was pretty decent for a good price. I woke up around 5:00am (August 5) the next day to watch the sunrise over Ninh Kieu Wharf (Ben Ninh Kieu) as our hotel was located right beside it. Vietnam is such a noisy and bustling place, I love the calm and peacefulness before the city wakes up. It’s a silence you don’t fully appreciate until you no longer regularly experience it!

After breakfast, we played tourists pretty much all day. Going around, shopping, eating, shopping, more eating. We also went for my mom’s dentist appointment somewhere in between.

We met up with Di Huong for drinks and catch up. She is quite lively and reminds me a lot of her brother, Cau Huyen (may be spelt Uyen). It was nice to have a chance to meet her as she lives in Paris and just happened to be visiting VN at the same time.

Visited Ba Thim Huynh as well, her husband wasn’t home but her son, Cau San was. As fate would have it, he owns a karaoke place and that is how we came to buy a karaoke machine of our own (which I’ve been loving by the way, haha). Ong Ba Thim Huynh also came down to Phung Hiep on August 14 to visit us (:

Headed back to Phung Hiep that evening!

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