Ben Tre is a desirable location for those who enjoy exploring the outdoors thanks to its pleasant weather throughout the year, abundance of tourist attractions, and mouthwatering specialties.
Ben Tre is a province in the Mekong Delta, 85 kilometers south of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to the west, bordering Tien Giang, Vinh Long, and Tra Vinh provinces, as well as the sea.
With a warm and sunny climate all year round, visitors can visit Ben Tre in any season. The most ideal time to visit the province is in the summer months of June, July, and August. This is the time when you can admire colorful natural scenes and enjoy exotic fruit freshly picked right from the tree such as mangosteen, durian, rambutan and more.
Con Quy - Tortoise Islet
Con Quy is a district in Chau Thanh that is known for its delicious fruits and fish. Con Quy is the smallest of the four islets named after the four sacred animals (long or dragon, ly or unicorn, quy or tortoise, and phung or phoenix,) of the Mekong Delta. Don ca tai tu, a Vietnamese southern folk music that embodies the identity of the southern river region, is another attraction for visitors to Con Quy.
Con Phung - Phoenix Islet
Con Phung is located on a floating island in the middle of the Tien River in Tan Thach Commune, Chau Thanh District. Visitors can take a motorboat along the dunes to visit the coconut candy processing facilities and coconut souvenir shops, or get on a horse-drawn carriage to visit the orchards, and enjoy tropical fruits. Many travelers are drawn by fun experiences such as fishing for crocodiles and feeding carp using baby bottles.
There are several orchards for you to visit: Cai Mon Orchard in Cho Lach District and Tien Long, Tan Phu orchards in Chau Thanh District. You can take in the garden's lush surroundings, savor the fresh fruits you picked yourself, and eat right there. A ticket includes a one-time entry to the garden, where you can enjoy any kind of fruit freely on the spot. If you plan to bring home some fruits as gifts, you will need to purchase them.
More than 200,000 families in Ben Tre grow coconuts, which accounts for about two-thirds of all the households in the province. You can try cycling around the coconut gardens, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere here. While cycling, visitors can stop to chat with locals to have a better understanding about life in the countryside.
Vam Ho Bird Sanctuary
Visitors can see more than 100 different species of birds at the Vam Ho Bird Sanctuary. A few birds living here are on the verge of extinction. An entry ticket to the sanctuary costs VND150,000 ($6.40).
Nguyen Dinh Chieu’s tomb
The tomb of Nguyen Dinh Chieu in An Duc Commune, Ba Tri District, is the resting place of the nation's great poet and patriot, who is known for his nationalist and anti-colonial writings against the French colonization of southern Vietnam. Every year, on July 1, the residents of Ben Tre hold a festival to commemorate him.
If you’re already here, you can go another 9 kilometers to Ngao Beach and Tiem Tom Port to see Ba Lai and Ham Luong Gates (the 3rd and 4th gates of the Mekong River connecting to the East Sea). These two gates are only a few kilometers apart.
Binh Dai Beach
Binh Dai beach is on the banks of Cua Dai River. The beach remains quite untouched by commercial tourism, making it less crowded compared to Vung Tau or Nha Trang. Aside from swimming and enjoying seafood, visitors can also go fishing or visit some tourist attractions such as the Long Phung Communal House and Van Phuoc Pagoda.
Dong Khoi guerrilla village
Dong Khoi guerrilla village is in Dinh Thuy Commune, Mo Cay District. The exhibition hall, which is open to visitors, features the rudimentary weapons that the residents of Ben Tre once used to fend off the U.S. invaders in the 1960s.
My Long rice paper village
Visitors can observe the locals making rice paper in the My Long Rice Paper Village. The rice paper is always hot, crispy, and full of the flavor of coconut milk because it is dried before being baked on a charcoal stove.
Son Doc Banh Phong Village
Son Doc Banh Phong Village, which is more than 100 years old, is in Hung Nhuong Commune. Visitors can learn about the process of making banh phong, or rice paper crackers. A well-done cracker must be spongy, crispy, and twice as big after baking. The craft village sells many kinds of banh phong for customers to buy as gifts, such as egg crackers, crackers with jackfruit, and crackers with durian.
The weaving village in Phuoc Tuy Commune, Ba Tri District, is about 40 kilometers east of Ben Tre's capital town. This craft village, where the locals make daily items out of bamboo, has existed for a long time. Visitors can experience the culture and learn how the locals make these products.
The river thrills
Visitors to Ben Tre should also take a river tour in a wooden dingy that offers the chance to sail through the numerous nipa trees that have sprouted along the canal.
One can also test their balance skills by walking on cau khi (monkey bridge), which is basically a couple bamboo poles tied together, a symbol of the rural Mekong Delta.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of homestays in Ben Tre. You can eat, stay, and visit with the host while enjoying some regional specialties and learning about their way of life. You can choose to stay at places such as Cocohut Homestay, Quoc Phuong Riverside Homestay, Nguyet Que Homestay & Tours, or Ba Danh Home. Prices range from VND400,000 to VND800,000 per night.
Additionally, there are a ton of motel and hotel options in the inner city for you to choose from, including Cong Doan Hotel, Ham Luong Hotel, Cuu Long Hotel, Thu Thu Guesthouse, and Que Huong Guesthouse. At night, you can go to the rooftops of these hotels for a late-night coffee and a view of the street along the river.
Many Ben Tre specialties made of coconut will surprise visitors. Various types of cuisine can be made from coconut aside from coconut water, such as rice cooked with coconut, coconut porridge, stir-fried shrimp with coconut, coconut buds, coconut candy, and coconut cake.
Bananas, flattened and then grilled over a charcoal fire, are served with coconut milk. The hot and crispy taste of the bananas and the rich flavor of coconut milk will delight you.
Banh canh bot xat - Thick noodle soup
With banh canh bot xat, the noodle is made from rice flour and is handmade, unlike the ready-made noodles that are sold in the market. The thick broth is cooked with duck meat. A small cup of fish sauce and ginger is served along with the dish. This is a Mekong Delta’ specialty.
Che Buoi - Pomelo sweet soup
Che buoi is made from pomelo peel, with the green skin removed. After being soaked in salt water, the pomelo peel is then cooked. Durian is also added in che buoi, so it always has a unique taste.
This may not suit everyone's taste, but rats that live on coconut trees are a favorite dish of the local people. The meat can be grilled, steamed or cooked in curry.
Banh xeo oc gao - Crispy crepes with snails
In the Mekong Delta, Phu Da Dune in Lach Market has the best banh xeo oc gao. The snail season is only from fourth to seventh lunar months. Diners will be impressed by the crepe shell, which is made from flour mixed with fragrant coconut milk and served with a filling of oc gao - Assiminea lutea snails, bean sprouts, and chopped cassava roots.
Crayfish is another rustic specialty that is loved by diners. Whether grilled, boiled with coconut water, or stir-fried with salt and lime leaves, crayfish meat still retains its sweetness and firmness.
You can enjoy many kinds of fresh fruit, such as durian, rambutan, longan, mangosteen, and especially macapuno, all with very cheap prices.
Termite mushrooms, which typically appear from April to July, grow on extruded termite mounds. This Ben Tre speciality, has a distinctive aroma and is sweet.
You can purchase fresh specialty fruits like mangosteen, Cai Mon durian, and pomelo. If you’re worried about keeping your gifts fresh, you can choose rice paper or rice crackers, coconut specialties such as jam, candies, and wine, as well as other lovely coconut-made crafts.
Travelers can begin their trip at HCMC's Mien Tay Bus Station, which has several bus lines making the two hour trip. Ticket prices range from VND85,000-VND140,000 ($3.63-$5.97).
In addition, you can travel by motorbike or car, which will allow you to stop and admire the scenery along the way. It is recommended to depart early in the morning or after 9 a.m., due to rush hour from 6 to 8 a.m. Travelers can follow Highway 1A to My Tho City, cross the Rach Mieu Bridge, and then turn right which will bring you to the center of Ben Tre.
If you want to have a more convenient sightseeing experience, you can choose a tour arranged by one of the travel companies in Ho Chi Minh City.
Story by Du Hy, Phuc Trinh