Few travellers stop in Bac Lieu, but bird – watchers pass through en route to the remarkable sanctuary near town. There is a few beautiful but forlorn French colonial buildings which line the waterfront, yet little else of interest.
The most famous buildings is the Cong Tu Hotel ( 0781-395 3304; 13 Ð Dien Bien Phu; r 300,000-500,000d; ), which was built in 1919 as a private mansion with materials imported from France. The family’s oldest son was a notorious playboy (cong tu) whose fabled exploits included burning money to boil an egg in an effort to impress a woman. After squandering the family fortune, the house was sold and converted into a hotel at which visitors can still stay. Alternatively, inexpensive guesthouses line the road into town from Soc Trang (rooms cost around US$10).
Bac Lieu Bird Sanctuary NATURE RESERVE
(0781-383 5991; admission 15,000d; 7.30am-5pm) This bird sanctuary, 6km southwest of town, is famous for its 50-odd species of bird, including a large population of graceful white herons. Bird populations peak in the rainy season – approximately May to October. The birds nest until about January, then fly off in search of greener pastures. From February, there are no birds here until the rainy season starts again.
Travellers could pass dense (and often muddy) forest : bring many of repellent, good shoes, water and binoculars. Pay the admission fee when you get to the entrance; an observation tower is set within the sanctuary. Visitors can (and should) hire a tour guide here, as you may get lost without him/her. The guides are unlikely to receive money, so tip them discreetly; most of the guides cannot speak English. The Bac Lieu Tourist office can arrange transport and guides for you (at a mark-up).
Eating & Drinking
Pho Ngheu Thanh Huong VIETNAMESE $
(43 Tran Quynh; mains 25,000-47,000d) When you are likely to be able to buy similar pho (noodle soups) and banh mi (filled baguettes) from a street stall, this nice eatery serves a fairy-lit rooftop from which to watch the traffic zoom by.
Kitty CAFE, BAR
(cnr Ð Tran Phu & Ba Trieu; 10am-11pm) This 1st-floor cafe overlooking one of the many busy roundabouts on Ð Tran Phu is black and white and chrome all over, together with chic chairs and a wall of TV screens. It’s a good site for Vietnamese coffee and cake, or something a little harder.
Bac Lieu Tourist (0781-382 4273; www.baclieutourist.com; 2 Ð Hoang Van Thu; 7-11am & 1-5pm) Helpful tourist office with simple town maps and information about trips to the bird sanctuary.
Post Office (20 Ð Tran Phu).
Getting There & Around
The bus station (Ben Xe Tinh Bac Lieu) which is 1km north of the center is on the main road into town . From here you can catch regular buses to Ho Chi Minh City (130,000d), Soc Trang (65,000d), Ha Tien (130,000d), Ca Mau (30,000d) and Can Tho (65,000d).