Quiet cult-fave town, near beaches & cave temples

Ha Tien, Stone Cave TempleWorth It? For those wanting to break out of the normal travel ruts – or continue on to Phu Quoc by fishing boat
What to Do Day-trip to Hon Chong’s surprising ‘mini Halong Bay,’ a walk across the clanking pontoon bridge, and a peek into the remarkable Thach Dong (Stone Cave) outside Ha Tien
Best Time to Go October to March
How Long? A day or two
Gateway Bus from Chau Doc or Rach Gia, or boats to/from Phu Quoc from nearby Ba Hon
Fact Ha Tien was the jumping-off base from where US Senator John Kerry, and the US military, left on the much-talked-about ‘swift boat’ trips during the Vietnam War; some of the 1995 movie The Lover was filmed here


Vietnam’s last town to the southwest, Ha Tien has long had its cult fans for its wee fishing-town feel that, despite a new bridge and influx of overseas Vietnamese money coming back, still feels far ‘rawer’ than many Mekong destinations. Restaurant staff tend to stare wide-eyed at a traveler actually using the English-language menu. About 42,000 people live in Ha Tien – roughly 15% are Khmer and 15% Chinese. The area is home to some lovely scenery, with gold-sand beaches and karstic limestone hills, such as the unique Tach Dong pagoda (Stone Cave), [link] with an impressive pagoda built in a well-maintained, bat-filled crevice, with views of rice fields, mountains and Cambodia.

Some travelers come on motorcycle, by way of a lovely (but long) ride from Chau Doc, before heading east to the fish shacks and golden beaches at Hon Chong, with fish shacks on a nice beach and a great hotel. Ha Tien is also a secondary shooting-off point to Phu Quoc in dry season, with three-hour boat rides going at 8am daily from Ba Hon; see Transport .