A thriving port on the Gulf of Thailand and something of a southern boom town benefiting from a serious injection of Viet Kieu money, Rach Gia is home to great numbers of both ethnic Chinese and ethnic Khmers. Most tourists zip straight through for boats to Phu Quoc Island, but the lively waterfront and bustling backstreets are worth being explored.
With its easy access to the sea and the proximity of Cambodia and Thailand, fishing, agriculture and smuggling are profitable trades in this province. The area was once famous for supplying the large feathers used to make ceremonial fans for the Imperial Court.
Nguyen Trung Truc Temple
(18 Ð Nguyen Cong Tru) This temple is devoted to Nguyen Trung Truc, a leader of the resistance campaign of the 1860s against the newly arrived French. The first temple structure was a simple building with a thatched roof; over the years it has been enlarged and rebuilt several times. There is a portrait of Nguyen Trung Truc on an altar in the centre of the main hall.
Among other exploits, Nguyen Trung Truc led the raid that resulted in the burning of the French warship Esperance. In spite of repeated efforts to capture him, Nguyen Trung Truc continued to fight until 1868, when the French took his mother and a number of civilians hostage and threatened to kill them if he did not surrender. As a consequence Nguyen Trung Truc turned himself in and was executed by the French in the marketplace of Rach Gia on 27 October 1868.
Phat Lon Pagoda
(Chua Phat Lon; 151 Ð Quang Trung) This large Cambodian Theravada Buddhist pagoda, whose name means Big Buddha, was constructed in the 19th century. Even though all of the monks who live here are ethnic Khmers, ethnic Vietnamese also frequent the pagoda. Inside the sanctuary (vihara), figures of the Thich Ca Buddha (Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha) wear pointed hats. Prayers can come here daily from 4am to 6am and 5pm to 7pm.
Kien Giang Museum
(21 Ð Nguyen Van Troi; 7.30-11am Mon-Fri & 1.30-5pm Mon-Wed) Housed in an ornate gem of a French colonial-era building (once a private house), the collection here includes many war photos and some Oc-Eo artefacts and pottery.
There are clusters of hotels near the bus station on Ð Le Thanh Ton and near the boat pier on Ð Tu Do.
Kim Co Hotel $
(077-387 9610; www.kimcohotel.com; 141 Ð Nguyen Hung Son; r 350,000-400,000d) Centrally located, trim and tidy Kim Co is a masterclass in pastel shade. Happy and bright rooms have clean bathrooms, but most face the corridor, guests can pull the shades for privacy.
Hong Yen HOTEL $
( 077-387 9095; 259 Ð Mac Cuu; r 150,000-250,000d) Stretching over four pink floors, Hong Yen is a likeable minihotel with sizeable, clean rooms and friendly owners. There’s a lift and some of the rooms have balconies.
Rach Gia is known for its seafood, dried cuttlefish, dried fish slices (ca thieu), fish sauce and black pepper.
Hai Au VIETNAMESE, INTERNATIONAL $
(2 Ð Nguyen Trung Truc; mains 60,000-120,000d; 6am-10pm) This is a great restaurant by local standards with a great location by the Cai Lon River. Seafood is popular, consisting of crayfish and crab, and Western-style dishes also remarkable.
Quan F28 VIETNAMESE, SEAFOOD $
(28 Ð Le Thanh Thon; mains 25,000-60,000d) Convenient for the bus station hotels, this is lively by night and does inexpensive molluscs – such as shrimp, snails, blood cockles and the like.
Benh Vien Hospital ( 077-394 9494; 80 Ð Nguyen Trung Truc) One of the best medical facilities in the Mekong Delta; privately operated.
Kien Giang Tourist (Du Lich Lu Hanh Kien Giang; 077-386 2081; firstname.lastname@example.org; 5 Ð Le Loi; 7am-5pm) Provincial tourism authority.
Main Post Office ( 077-387 3008; 2 Ð Mau Than) Has the usual attached internet services.
Getting There & Away
Vietnam Airlines has daily flights to and from HCMC (from 1,100,000d) and Phu Quoc Island (from 800,000d). The airport is 10km southeast of the centre, along Hwy 80 in the direction of Long Xuyen; a taxi into town will cost around 80,000d.
Boats to Phu Quoc Island depart from the centrally located ferry terminal at the western end of Ð Nguyen Cong Tru. About three hydrofoils leave daily for Ca Mau (110,000d, three hours) from the Rach Meo ferry terminal ( 077-381 1306; Ð Ngo Quyen), about 2km south of town.
There are regular services to Ca Mau (50,000d, three hours), Ha Tien (38,000d, two hours) and other cities in the region from the central bus station (260A Ð Nguyen Binh Khiem) north of town. A taxi into town will cost around 20,000d.
Car & Motorbike
Rach Gia is 90km from Ha Tien, 120km from Can Tho and 270km from HCMC.