Off the beaten track in charming Tra Vinh

By Thu Ky   December 3, 2020 | 01:26 am PT
Off the beaten track in charming Tra Vinh
Waterways in Tra Vinh Province, southern Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/KernelNguyen.
Teeming with lovely landscapes, historical relics and spiritual landmarks, Cau Ke and Tra Cu districts are at the heart of Mekong Delta province Tra Vinh’s tourism allure.

Cau Ke

Cau Ke lies in the west of Tra Vinh along the bank of the Hau River. Here, Tan Quy Islet is nationally renowned as the fruit hub of the province. It is in the Hau River and gets bountiful amounts of alluvial sediments, making it ideal for growing fruits.

Here, visitors can pick fruits at orchards and enjoy them fresh, and talk to locals to learn about growing the fruits and a day in their life.

Another attraction that draws tourists to the islet is a "disappearing beach" across from the Diem Hen (Ut Rup) ecotourism complex. The name, called by locals, derives from the fact that the beach only appears when water recedes.

Cau Ke District is also dubbed the capital of macapuno which started appearing in the 1960s.

Besides its abundant natural resources, Cau Ke is also rich in history, arts and culture with an array of architectural remnants, historical artifacts and monuments. It boasts 64 religious places of worship.

A popular annual festival here is the Vu Lan ceremony during the lunar July 27-28. On the morning of the 28th day offerings such as a white pig and savory dishes are made. The ceremony then unfolds to lively beats of drums, cymbals, gongs, and leaf-horns.

In addition to its ethnic Chinese people's shrines, Cau Ke District is also home to 22 colorful, high-roofed Khmer pagodas. Sam Pua Pagoda, the most visited among them, is the oldest Khmer pagoda in Cau Ke. It houses a highly treasured ancient blue marble plaque that is 1.7 meters long and weighs 500 kg, requiring eight people to carry it.

Beyond its assorted religious establishments, Cau Ke District is also home to some of the most prized ancient houses in the Mekong Delta including Huynh Ky.

The Huynh Ky ancient house is in Cau Ke township, 30 kilometers from Tra Vinh Town, capital of the eponymous province. Once governor Huynh Ky’s residence, the beautiful manor features antique designs and elements of French architecture of the early 20th century. Huynh Ky mansion reflects the shift of Vietnamese architecture from traditional to modern style.

In terms of food, Cau Ke is most famous for its makapuno, pickled radish with Ba Da (Madam Da) being the most popular brand, catfish, and crawfish.

With its Kinh, Khmer and Chinese cuisine options, the district is a cosmopolitan food hub. Prahok, a Cambodian fermented fish paste usually made of mudfish is one of its specialties. This salty paste can be incorporated into a meal in various ways: alone as a dip or prepared and seasoned with chili, lemongrass and lime.

Cau Ke is also known for unique dishes like sour soups and noodle dishes like xiem lo noodles with fish and saffron.

If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to check out the various local cakes. These artisanal Khmer items can last five to six months, making them great gifts.

Tra Cuon tet cake is a savory option, a colorful rice cake with a filling of mung bean and pork and shaped like a log. Must-try local beverages include palm juice, konjac powder juice and Khmer ethnic wine.

Tra Cuon tet cake in Duyen Hai District, a specialty of Tra Vinh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Bang.

Tra Cuon tet cake in Duyen Hai District, a specialty of Tra Vinh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Bang.

Tra Cu

There are a total of 95 historical and cultural sites in Tra Cu District, including six archaeological relics, 21 historical landmarks and 68 architectural works of art.

Many Vietnamese and foreign tourists visit Tra Cu District for its gorgeous pagodas. One of them is Vam Ray Pagoda in Ham Tan Commune, which is over 600 years old. Extensively renovated in 2003-2008, it absolutely stands out with its majestic gilded exteriors, palatial structure and exquisite patterns along the walls.

The entrance is a traditional triple gate that is characteristic of Theravada Buddhist architecture. Its most remarkable feature, however, is a colossal reclining Buddha statue. Measuring over 54 meters in length, it is completely gilded in gold.

Another pagoda to visit in Tra Cu District is Phno Don Pagoda, also called Co Pagoda, in Dai An Commune. It was built in 1677, and besides its intricate architecture, its unique feature relates to its nickname, "Co" (stork).

Storks and some other species of birds throng the premises. Here you can find regular white storks, yellow-billed ones, black-necked ones, and bitterns. They live in the branches of the old neem and resin trees in the pagoda’s six-hectare court. The pagoda is dubbed the biggest bird sanctuary in Tra Vinh Province.

The reclining Buddha statue at the six-century-old Vam Ray Pagoda in Ham Tan Commune. Photo courtesy of Tra Vinhs Tourism Promotion Center.

The reclining Buddha statue at the six-century-old Vam Ray Pagoda in Ham Tan Commune, Tra Vinh Province. Photo courtesy of Tra Vinh's Tourism Promotion Center.

As for festivals in Tra Cu District, the Khmer people celebrate some annual ones that you can take part in. A special yearly occasion is the Lantern Festival celebrating the full moon in the first lunar month. As for daily activities, visit artisanal workshops that specialize in textile weaving (Ca Hom Village) and knitting (Dai An Commune).

Tra Cu is currently focusing on developing tours to traditional handicraft villages like crafting Khmer masks (Kim Manh business household in Thanh Son Commune) and stitching traditional Khmer ethnic garments (Kim Ngoc Song business household in Kim Son Commune).

The district has also set up shops selling souvenirs and gifts and local specialties like coconut products, konjac powder, and Dai An woven goods.

To round out your travel experience in Tra Cu District, make sure to relish dishes fusing Kinh, Khmer and Chinese elements.

Toddy palm dessert soup is a Khmer specialty that is meticulously prepared using essence extracted from the skin of ripe toddy palm fruits. It is enriched with coconut milk and chewy toddy palm pieces and balanced out with the acidity from toddy palm sugar, creating a harmonious combination. This delectable treat is made by teacher Diem business household in Ham Giang Commune.

Another Dai An snack is the calabash rice cake which comes in both sweet and salty versions. Its ingredients mainly include young calabash, rice flour, small freshwater shrimp, coconut milk, scallion, and curry powder.

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