For your next trip in My Tho

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Introduction

My Tho, considered as the quiet capital city of Tien Giang province, is the traditional gateway to the Mekong River Delta, owing to its proximity to Ho Chi Minh City. Famous in the town is the noodle soup Hu Tieu My Tho. It is typically a clear pork broth with rice vermicelli and wheat flour noodles combined. My Tho is also famous for its Bo Vien or beef balls. There are very busy stalls near the My Tho market that serve only Bo Vien in beef broth or with Hu Tieu noodle. It is eaten with very hot chilli sauce.

As the regional capital, My Tho is the main market which receives all the produce from everywhere across the region as well as fish and seafood from My Tho‘s large ocean going fishing fleet. The very large and exuberant market is one of the biggest sources in Southern Vietnam for dried fish and other dried seafood products such as Muc Kho (dried squid). At night the market is dedicated to the dealing and sorting of Mekong River fish, particularly catfish for Ho Chi Minh City‘s wholesale markets. Produce, especially fruit and vegetables, is delivered by boat directly to the market.

It can be said that My Tho is a popular starting point for tourists to take a boat trip on the Mekong River.

How to get there and around

Can Tho City is 34 km from Vinh Long Province, 63km from Soc Trang Province, 104 km from My Tho City (Tien Giang Province), 125km from Rach Gia City (Kien Giang Province), 62km from Long Xuyen City and 117km from Chau Doc Town (An Giang Province), 169km from Ho Chi Minh City and 179km from Ca Mau Province. There are many ways to get to and get around Can Tho.

By Air

There is now a functioning airport in Can Tho – Can Tho Airport (formerly Tra Noc Airport) which only offers connection between Can Tho and Hanoi. It is convenient if you transfer directly from Hanoi to Can Tho or vice versa.

By Bus

The bus station is about 2km to the north-west of the city centre, on Nguyen Trai Street. There are regular buses from Mien Tay Bus station in Ho Chi Minh City and other destinations in Mekong delta region including Can Tho.

By boat

Daily trips depart from Ho Chi Minh City at 11:30 am (Ninh Kieu Wharf; Tel: 713 821 476).

Daily trip departs from Can Tho at 1.30pm and arrive in Ho Chi Minh City at 5:30pm (Bach Dang Port; Tel: 08-821 5609).

Ninh Kieu Wharf also offers daily trips to surrounding places such as daily trip to Ca Mau (1 trip in a day), Vinh Thuan – Kien Giang (2 trips in a day), Long Phu (Soc Trang), Tra On (Vinh Long).

By Car & Motorbike

The ride from Ho Chi Minh city to Can Tho along the No. 1A Highway takes around 4 hours. There is one ferry crossing at Binh Minh (Can Tho). The Can Tho ferry runs from 4:00am through to 2:00am. There is a new bridge under construction which will speed things up, but it has been severely delayed (2010-2011) after a tragic col­lapse in 2007.

By Taxi

City Taxi

Tel: 713 824 824

Tay Do Taxi

Tel: 713 827 827

Mai Linh Taxi

Tel: 713 822 266

Climate

Located north of the Mekong River Delta, alongside the north of Tien River, My Tho has two distinct (dry and rainy) seasons. The dry season lasts from December to April next year. The rainy season is between May and November. Annual average temperature is 27ºC. The rainfall in this province is considered lower than in the other provinces located in the Mekong River Delta. Trips to visit My Tho are suitable all year round but the best time is the monsoon from June to September.

What to see

Vinh Trang pagoda

This large, very peaceful pagoda and enclave is over a century old and can be found around one kilometre from the centre of My Tho. The temple does a lot of good work — especially with homeless and other disadvantaged children and donations are very much appreciated. The pagoda was some very impressive woodwork within — look for the dragons tongues running down the wooden pillars on each side of the alter. Admission is free.

Cao Dai temple

In case you missed Tay Ninh, there’s a small Cao Dai temple on Ly Thong Kiet that is in immaculate condition.

My Tho church

Set in the northern reaches of town, on Nguyen Trai, this sizeable church looks after My Tho’s small Catholic community. There’s daily prayer services.

Dong Tam Snake Farm

Located 12 kilometers from My Tho City, Tien Giang Province, Dong Tam Snake Farm is a safe place for the animals to have a peaceful life without the impact of human. Coming there, tourists can see a lot of researched snakes which are extremely aggressive and even capable of spitting poison, and other snake-based medicines are produced to save lives. The Dong Tam Snake Farm covers an area of 12 hectares, including simulated wilderness areas, surrounded by ditches for snakes as well as areas for other animals like sheep, ostriches, yellow tortoises, tigers, crocodiles and so on. During a trip the farm, you will be informed about its history, offered information about how to treat snakebites and demonstrated venom extraction and some of its uses.

Coming to this farm, you will have the chance to see how 500 snakes are taken venom at a time. This venom will be used to process medicine and other uses.

Coming here, the tourists will also have a chance to explore the farm together with its guides. If you are afraid of snakes, you shouldn’t get too close to cages, because there are many poisonous snakes like copperheads, dendrophis which lie in branches, or snakes crawling out of their holes. Here, you can take a lot of photograph of the cobras which are kept in an open pit. Normally, they will not harm you if you ignore. Yet, they will strike if they are once provoked.

At some cages, the guide even pulls a snake out for visitors to take photos and expounds about different kinds of snakes. If you take notice, you can also see that there are some snakes live in special cages and they are put mice out for meals. Yet, not all snakes are being raised for venom production; some of them will become meals for fellow creatures. Interestingly, the farm offers products made from snakes such as snake medicinal wine for you to buy.

A representative of the farm said that Dong Tam saves around 500 lives annually, usually poor patients in the Mekong River Delta who come to the farm when their situations become critical.

Sound interesting, isn’t it? Let’s join a trip to Dong Tam snake farm by coming from Ho Chi Minh City, continue for 3km beyond the turn-off to My Tho and turn left at the Dong Tam junction (signposted). From the junction, follow the road for 4km, turn right and continue for lion until you reach the snake farm.

What to do

The most common reason for visiting My Tho is to use it as a base for a boat trip into the Mekong Delta. At first glance it has terrific potential as it’s just an hour or two from Saigon, has good lodgings and has a tremendous range of Mekong Delta scenery within easy reach. On the downside, all the tourist boat-trips are controlled by the Tien Giang Tourist office who have set the price of tours artificially high and also restricted the tours to large, ten to twenty seat boats. What this means is that you’ll pay two to three times what you may pay in Can Tho yet be deprived of the up-close experience which can only really be garnered in a small sampan. That said, if you don’t have the time to get to Can Tho, the trips out of My Tho are still worth doing — they’re just not as good, nor as fine value, as they should be.

The standard My Tho boat trip costs around US$20-25 for the boat, so start working now at getting a group together! The boat trips visit a set of fixed, somewhat contrived, destinations but the scenery more than makes up for it. You’ll most likely visit Dragon (Con Tan Long), Tortoise (Con Quy) and Unicorn (Con Thoi Son) Islands — all are known for their fruit orchards and cottage industries (coconut candy, banana liquor, ginger teas and so on), with a trip taking three to four hours depending on how long you spend at each spot. You’ll also most likely be encouraged to take a meal at a riverside seafood restaurant at the end of the trip. En route to the coconut candy factories you’ll pass by Phoenix Island on your right. As it’s in Ben Tre Province, the My Tho-based tours don’t visit it, which is no great loss as it’s no longer worth getting off the boat to see.

If you’ve never seen a fruit orchard nor seen coconut candy made before, then the cottage industries can be quite interesting, but the real highlight is travelling in the back canals — especially on Unicorn Island. There, after sampling an early breakfast of ginger tea and fruit liquor you’ll be transferred to a small sampan and rowed through palm-fringed back canals. This portion of the trip only takes twenty minutes — a shame as a longer trip, through more canals, would be more interesting.

Two points worth noting. First, if you’re planning on visiting the area around My Tho but venturing no further into the Mekong Delta, then organising your trip from Saigon works out far cheaper. Secondly, you can catch a local ferry from My Tho town to all three islands from the boat station on Trung Trac St, but once you reach each island you’ll need to wander around a fair bit to find anything other than general Delta scenery.

Where to eat

Opposite the government buildings, on the waterfront in front of what looks like a restaurant cruise boat there is a variety of food stalls. They offer tasty meals at great prices.

On the waterfront near the big statue are vendors selling a variety of food on skewers. 5000 dong each however locals pay much less and your being ripped off.

Street vendors walk around with a large covered baskets containing steamed corn a tasty bargain at 3500 dong each.

Where to stay

Song Tien – friendly staff and decent rooms. Air-con room including WIFI 300,000 dong.

Minh Quan – Midrange hotel, clean, aircon, wifi, quiet, cable tv, VILF on reception. 550,000 dong.

Minh Tai – Clean, freshly renovated,Fan/Air con 150,000/210,000 dong. Top floor is very breezy so air-con is not required.

Rang Dong – Two locations, stayed at location further from town. Old dingy rooms,dropped here by moto from bus station. Bargained down to 150,000 dong – normal rate 200,000-400,000 dong. Has WIFI but you won’t get it in your room (not on top floor lobby either) unless you stay on the lower floors which cost more (and still won’t get signal at the ends of the hall).

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