HA TIEN - Attractions

Ha Tien’s most popular attraction is in nearby Hon Chong, a 90-minute ride east along the coast.

IN TOWN: Bridges & Markets

Ha Tien pontoon bridgeHa Tien has little to do in town but take it in – not that that’s ever a bad thing. Definitely walk or bike across the swaying ‘floating bridge’ (made with old pontoon boats). In 2004 the city put up a far less-fun proper one, the comparatively sky-high To Chau Bridge – about 200m and 400m south on various sides of the To Chau River – but the small-fee passage of the floating one hasn’t slowed down traffic. The river leads to Ho Dong ‘lake’ – actually an inlet of the sea.

I asked half a dozen locals when the pontoon bridge was made and got half a dozen answers – the most intriguing one was that it’s a left-over from the US Army’s projects during the war here. Long metal planks are set side by side – clanking with each shoe, sandal or tire tread that passes over them – and kept a float by painted-white rowboats underneath (certainly not the type of boat you see around Vietnam).

Once across, in Ha Tien’s center (on the north side), you meet Tran Hau Street, which runs along the water. Just left is the old market, which may or may not be usurped by the new, modern market near the rival To Chau bridge 400m south (it should be done in early 2007). Hopefully some of the fish, fruit and whatnot stalls will stay behind.

There are a few pagodas around – follow Lam Son (a block north of Tran Hau) west to reach one, the Giai Thoat Pagoda.


Other than a daytrip to Hon Chong, Ha Tien’s top attraction is its OK beach and interesting stone cave just north of town, accessible by rental bike or motorcycle. You can snoop at both, perhaps stopping at a Khmer village, in a few hours. The 16km loop comes within 2km of the restricted Cambodia border at Xa Xin.

From Ha Tien’s center, take Phuong Thanh St north from Tran Hau (a couple blocks west of the old market). A couple blocks after you pass a church and pagoda, it veers left for a couple hundred meters till you reach a small blue-and-white roundabout.

Go right – towards Xa Xin (and the restricted Cambodian border) – to reach the STONE CAVE (Tach Dong; entry 2000D), 4km from Ha Tien. This vegetated limestone ‘tower’ is visible much of the way. The site is more pagoda than cave, but after you pay the 2000D, a few steps leads past souvenir stalls to a grand entrance. Note the hanging rock before the doorway – it’s called ‘grandfather.’ A yellow pot, on top of an elephant statue, collects rainwater dripping from the grandfather rock – some worshippers believe drinking from the pot is good luck. (Vietnamese always find likenesses in the natural world; ‘grandmother’ is around to the lonelier south side – her water drips go woefully uncollected.) Inside, you’ll see a gate with Chinese characters and the small pagoda, snugly fit below the jarring nooks of the cave. Around to the right look up and you’ll see bats flying about. Behind the small roofed pagoda inside, you can climb out on the rocks – the mountains to the far right are in Cambodia. Before leaving, take the steps up by the entry to see a ‘first floor’ chamber, where a Buddha statue looks out a hole to the ‘grandfather’ as bats noisily goof off.

In front, by the ticket seller, you’ll see a monument of a clenched fist that honours the 130 locals killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1978.

From here, follow the road north, following it as it loops left past rice fields and Khmer schools (skip the turn-off to Xa Xin). Another 4km or so is MUI NAI BEACH (entry 2000D) – there are two palm-lined beaches with stone promenades and plenty of food stalls and lounge chairs. Often during high tide (generally in the morning), water covers the black-sand beach. It’s nice enough, but the water’s a bit murky. On weekends locals pack in, during the week it can be pretty empty. The northern beach – first you pass – is supposedly rimmed to north side by a ‘stag’s head hill’ – which shows a remarkable knack for imagination by the legend-makers of Ha Tien. Supposedly you can see Phu Quoc from here on a clear day.

From here, continue on the road to the right – back into town (8km away). The road leads to the Phuong Thanh St roundabout – either go back on Phuong Thanh St (straight ahead), or veer right to reach the new To Chau Bridge at the west end of Ha Tien’s center.