Fun border town with Cham villages, boat tours, mountains

Chau Doc boatsWorth It? Yes, it’s a Mekong highlight, with floating villages, Cham villages, nearby mountains and very tasty fish soup
Best Time to Go October to March
How Long? A day or two
Gateway Boat to/from Phnom Penh, bus to Can Tho or Ha Tien
Fact Pol Pot’s raids here prompted the Vietnamese military’s invasion of Cambodia in 1978


If you’re heading to Cambodia, or can spend any more time than a day in the Mekong, come here. A few kilometers from the Cambodian border, Chau Doc is a common stop-off of ‘open bus/boat tours’ heading to Phnom Penh, and its particularly tasty bowls of fresh canh chua (fish soup), boat trips to Cham villages, a sprawling local market that still dominates the city center, and the surprising appearance of mountains make it a Vietnam highlight. Trips can be arranged here, including a sunset tour of pagoda-filled Sam Mountain, 6km south, or lesser-seen attractions farther south: Tra Su bird sanctuary (still not appearing in the guidebooks) and the Toc Dup Hill war site.

Some of the Vietnamese you meet – and you will meet many – were born in Cambodia, moving to Vietnam in 1970 after the Khmer Rouge got in force. Some of these ethnic Vietnamese only learned their family tongue later and speak Vietnamese ‘in a Cambodian accent.’

Read about my experiences here during my research trip.

View from Tra Su