HA TIEN - SOUTHERN VIETNAM
JEWEL OF THE DELTA OF MÉKONG
Ideally located in the southwest corner of Vietnam, Ha Tien is the most attractive place in the Mekong Delta region. Among its many charms, Ha Tien receives a refreshing breeze over the sea, river and hills throughout the day. As it is already a popular transit point for travellers between Phu Quoc Island and the Cambodian coast, Ha Tien should be a destination in its own right.
History of Ha Tien
In 17th century, Mac Cuu was a Chinese immigrant who took refuge after the collapse of the Ming dynasty. He founded a Chinese community in Ha Tien following a proposal from the Khmer leaders, later leading Ha Tien as the vassal state of Vietnam. While the region prospered in Southern Vietnam (despite Thai attacks), Mac Cuu's descendants continued to rule Ha Tien for about a hundred years, until the region came under Vietnamese control at the end of the 18th century. French settlers took power in the 19th century, then, during the war, Ha Tien became a base for shipping operations and in the 1970s, the region was subjected to cross-border raids by the Khmer Rouge.
Today, Ha Tien thrives on trade with Cambodia. There are many traces of the past in and around the city, where communities of Chinese and Khmer origin still live.
What to do in Ha Tien?
Walking along the waterfront road and then walking up the small streets is a great way to enjoy the city. From the edge of the bustling river to the edge of the lake (Dong Ho Street) and its sleepy but charming alleys, exploring Ha Tien on foot is both fun and entertaining. With the exception of the beaches, caves and the Ngoc Tien monastery, all tourist sites in Ha Tien are within walking distance. Ha Tien is also a perfect destination in Southern vietnam for cycling.
Recently moved near the river bank, the "market area" houses several different markets: spice market, night market, vegetable and meat market, fish market and ready meals, flowers and fruit market. Each of these markets has its own building or area.
The fish market (Cho Ca) is located just by the river, where many fishing boats unload their catch early in the morning. Fish and shellfish of all varieties are transferred from boats to the dock for sale. It is a fascinating sight and the products are remarkably fresh.
The night market for tourists is worth a visit for souvenirs. Along the periphery of the night market, you will find excellent street restaurants.
Temples and pagodas
Ha Tien is home to many interesting religious buildings to visit, which reflect the city's history.
Tomb Hill: Dedicated to the Chinese immigrant dynasty that dominated Ha Tien for most of the 18th century, this green hill to the west of the city is home to dozens of Mac family graves. Even if you are not interested in the history of Ha Tien, you can enjoy a pleasant walk through the trees. At the bottom of the hill, near the entrance, a pretty temple of the Mac dynasty, built in 1846, is worth a visit. Inside, the incense-filled sanctuary is decorated with Chinese style wall paintings.
Tam Bao Pagoda: The pagoda was founded by Mac Cuu in 1730 and the gardens and rooms are decorated with statues of the Buddha, the goddess of mercy and famous monks. Behind the main temple are the tombs of 16 monks in a peaceful garden.
Local Temples: Ha Tien is dotted with small and intriguing local temples. Most of them are still active places of worship, but some, especially on the outskirts of the city, have been left abandoned. As you walk through the city, you will notice these small temples - located in a corner in the shade of a tree, stuck between two new townhouses or collapsing in a field, it adds a sense of mystery to Ha Tien.
Ngoc Tien Monastery: Painted yellow and red, this Buddhist monastery is visible from almost every street in Ha Tien, on the other side of the river.
A pagoda in Ha Tien
North of Ha Tien, the limestone hills that straddle the Cambodian border are full of caves. Many of them are considered sacred and act as sanctuaries for spirits and divinities. Inside, the caves are decorated with statues and offer a welcome respite from the heat of the day. On the road leading to the gateway to the Cambodian border, the landscape is among the most beautiful in the Mekong Delta region and southern Vietnam. The Thach Dong and Nui Da Dung caves are designed for visitors to walk around and can be visited as part of a loop, including Mui Nai Beach, making it a day or half-day excursion from Ha Tien.
Popular with domestic tourists on weekends and holidays, but extraordinarily deserted on most other days, Mui Nai is the main beach of Ha Tien. It is easy to take a taxi to get to this beach, but renting a motorcycle is much more fun. In general (but especially during the dry season: from December to May), the water is exceptionally calm and the view of Phu Quoc Island and the Cambodian mountains is good. The sand is dark and sometimes a little muddy, but the water is soft, shallow and ideal for swimming. There are many seafood restaurants by the waterfront that also rent sun loungers and a small shower room.
Some tips during your stay in Ha Tien
- Ha Tien's specialty is undeniably coconut with a pod. Coconuts in this region are somewhat different from normal coconuts: there is no coconut milk inside, but the pod is much more delicious. This specialty is served in the lively river market and in many cafés and restaurants with ice cream and sugar. Feel free to taste it during your trip to Southern vietnam!
- Many old houses and temples contribute to create a beautiful atmosphere in Ha Tien, as well as in the bay, surrounded by hills. The shore of Dong Ho or the East Sea (an extension of the To Chau River) invites you to take a walk, especially in the evening.