An Giang is a province in Vietnam that borders Cambodia. It is most popular for being the place where one finds Chau Doc. The city is situated at the intersection of a tributary linking the Bassac and Mekong Rivers. Chau Doc may be a little city, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in colours and is probably the only place where pastel colours are chosen to beautify store fronts.
Chau Doc is close to the river border of Vietnam and Cambodia. Anyone who travels to and from Phnom Penh by boat will pass by the city, and staying overnight is highly recommended. Aside from the colours, visitors will also captivated by the locals; the people in Chau Doc, including the xe dap loi drivers, are nice and friendly. Foreigners need not worry too much about a language barrier—English is spoken in most hotels and guesthouses, while most restaurants have an English-language menu.
The main attraction in Chau Doc is the Sam Mountain, which is about seven kilometres north of town. The mountain is not really high, it just seems that way because of the plains of Mekong. This tourist destination is considered a local pilgrimage site because the mountain is home to many shrines and temples and there is a colourful temple at the base, and smaller places of worship on the way up the mountain. However, the most religiously significant is the Ba Chua Xu Temple, which has its own festival held between April and June.
An attraction history lovers would surely appreciate is the Tuc Dup Hill. This is where the U.S. forces failed to stop the small-scale insurgencies in the delta. The hill was guarded and dominated by the Viet Cong during the U.S. assault, which lasted for four months. Near the hill, one will see graves and memorials.
Another attraction worth visiting in Chau Doc is the Tra Su Bird Sanctuary. It has a 23-metre high observation tower, enabling visitors to see over the reserve and the stunning countryside that surrounds it.
When it comes to dining in Chau Doc, there are two restaurants that stand out: Bay Bong and Bassac Restaurant. The latter is upscale compared to the former, but both serve exceptional dishes which are enough reason to try them.
Bay Bong is a favourite dining destination for good a reason. Tourists who have tasted the dishes cannot help but rave about the cuisine and not only is the food delicious, but they are also reasonably priced. One is served with mouth-watering hot pots, soups and fresh seafood fare and the canh chua (sweet and sour soup) and ca kho to (stewed fish in clay pot) are highly recommended.
Those who prefer a more sophisticated dining experience should head on over to the Victoria Chau Duc Hotel, where the Bassac Restaurant is located. Aside from amazing Vietnamese delicacies, its menu also includes a wide selection of international dishes. The dessert options in this place are impressive and diners can choose to eat either in the air-conditioned dining room or on the deck.
Chau Doc is a sleepy town, and locals usually retire to bed early. Nonetheless, visitors who will find themselves in Chau Doc after twilight can enjoy a few drinks and maybe even a dance.
The four-star Victoria Chau Doc Hotel is probably the best place to stay in the Chau Doc region. Coincidentally, it is also where one can find one of the best bars in the city. The Tan Chau Salon bar is one of the nicest places to visit after a day of sightseeing. Aside from Asian and Western snacks, it offers great cocktails and is open until 23:00.
Couples who are interested in a nightcap can go to Gio Dong. The idyllic spot is located about two kilometres from town, on the way to the famous Sam Mountain.
For people who want more than a drink to end their night, An Tuong 2 is the place to go. This dance hall, which is a local favourite, has an entrance fee which is inclusive of one drink.
Like other rural areas in Vietnam, Chau Doc has a floating market where one can find almost anything. The market expands from the bank of the river and along the streets of Le Cong Thanh Doc, Phu Thu, Bach Dang and Chi Lang. This is where most local products and commodities are sold. However, merchandise from Cambodia and Thailand can also be purchased here. Each floating 'store' has a long pole that shows a sample of the vendor's wares.
The wide selection of goods sold in this market is impressive. It is one of the best places to get fresh produce from the region. Most boats sell an assortment of fruit and vegetables. There are those that offer silk products, such as clothes and bags while others sell local embroidery, while there are some that hawk handicrafts and antiques.
Everyone who visits Chau Doc must go on a boat trip and an experience in this town would not be complete without it. Those who are interested to go on this trip will have no difficulty; all one has to do is walk along the Bassac River in the direction of the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel; here, there are many people who will persuade tourists to hire the boat to go out and see the fish farms. The best time to go on a boat trip is in the early morning, so that one can catch the river market.
Chau Doc can also be a place of relaxation. In the aforementioned Victoria Hotel, there is a rooftop spa and there are massage therapies that last for less than an hour, which is perfect for tourists who do not have a lot of time in their hands. Those who can stay longer should try the Relaxation Package (three days/two nights). The spa is open from 09:00 to 21:00.
To get to Chau Doc, one can go either by bus or boat. Local buses depart and arrive from the station a few kilometres north in Le Loi. As for the boats, there are those which travel from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh and vice versa; these boats leave at 07:00 and they arrive at 16:30. People also have the option of travelling by motorbike; there are motorbikes that run along the Vietnam/Cambodia border near Tinh Bien, which is about 30km from Chau Doc.
An Giang, where Chau Doc is located, experiences two seasons: wet and dry. The wet season is from May until November; the dry season is from December until April. The best time to visit Chau Doc is during the dry season, a time when tourists will not be inconvenienced by rainy weather.
There are only a few banks in Chau Doc. For currency exchange, the best place to go to is the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel.