Mekong Delta Travel in Vietnam 2018
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Soc Trang

It’s an interesting destination to discover  Khmer temples in the area, even though you can probably skip these if Cambodia is on your radar.

Sights

Bat Pagoda BUDDHIST TEMPLE

This large and peaceful pagoda compound with a resident colony of fruit bats. Literally hundreds of these creatures hang from the trees: the largest weigh about 1kg, with a wingspan of about 1.5m. They are not toilet trained, so watch out when standing under a tree, or bring an umbrella.

 Optimum  times to pay a visit  are early morning and at least an hour before sunset, when the bats are most active. Around dusk hundreds of bats swoop out of the trees to forage in orchards all over the Mekong Delta, much to the consternation of farmers, who are  known to trap the bats and eat them. There are protected creatures inside the compound : the bats  seem to know this and stick around.

bat pagoda

The monks don’t ask for money, though donations won’t hurt. The pagoda is decorated with gilt Buddhas and murals paid for by overseas Vietnamese contributors. In one room  there’s a life-size statue of the monk who was the former head of the complex.

The Bat Pagoda is 2km south of Soc Trang, a 20,000d xe om ride away (or you can easily walk). Head south on Ð Le Hong Phong and after about a kilometre veer right onto Ð Van Ngoc Chinh.

Clay Pagoda BUDDHIST TEMPLE

(163 Ð Ton Duc Thang) Buu Son Tu (Precious Mountain Temple) was  built  more than  200 years ago by a Chinese family named Ngo. Unassuming from the outside, this temple is highly  unusual in that nearly every object inside is made entirely of clay.  Therefore , it is better  known as Chua Dat Set, or Clay Pagoda.

There are hundreds  of statues and sculptures which  adorn the interior were hand-sculpted by the monk Ngo Kim Tong. From the age of 20 until  his death at 62, this ingenious artisan  dedicated his life  to decorating the pagoda.  Although  the decor borders on kitsch, the pagoda is an active place of worship, and totally different from the Khmer and Vietnamese pagodas else where in Soc Trang.

clay pagoda

 Entering the pagoda,  tourists  are greeted by one of Ngo’s biggest  creations – a six-tusked clay elephant, which is  said  to have appeared in a dream of Buddha’s mother. Behind this is the central altar, which is fashioned  from more than five tonnes of clay.  In the altar are a thousand Buddhas seated on lotus petals. Other highlights  is comprised of  a 13-storey Chinese-style tower which is over  4m tall. The tower features 208 cubby holes, one  with a mini-Buddha figure inside, and is decorated with 156 dragons.

It is necessary for travellers to know , the clay objects in the pagoda are fragile, so discover  with care. Donations are welcome.

Kh’leang Pagoda BUDDHIST TEMPLE

(Chua Kh’leang; 68 Ð Ton Duc Thang)  Except for the quite  garish paint job, this pagoda could have been transported straight from Cambodia.  Originally constructed  from bamboo in 1533, there was a complete  concrete reconstruct  in 1905.  Lots of  monks reside in the pagoda, serving  as a base for more  150 novices who come from around the Mekong Delta to learn  at Soc Trang’s College of Buddhist Education across the street.

There are seven religious festivals  held here  every year, drawing people from out lying areas of the province.

Khmer Museum MUSEUM

( 079-382 2983; 23 Ð Nguyen Chi Thanh; 7.30-11am & 1.30-5pm Mon-Fri)  Devoted  to the history and culture of Vietnam’s Khmer minority, it’s a small museum  which doubles  as a type  of cultural centre.  Traditional dance and music shows are periodically staged here for bigger  groups.  Exhibits are limited to photos and a few traditional costumes and other artefacts.

The museum, which is opposite  Kh’leang Pagoda, may close ; if so, rouse someone to let you in.

Worth a Trip

Xa Lon Pagoda

Originally  constructed  in wood in the 18th century, this amazing  Khmer pagoda was totally  rebuilt in 1923 but  proved to be too small. Between 1969 to 1985 , the present-day big  pagoda was slowly constructed  as funds trickled in from donations. The ceramic tiles on the exterior of the pagoda are  particularly  remarkable .

The monks lead an austere life,  enjoying  breakfast at 6am and seeking alms until 11am, when it takes them an hour for worship . They  eat again just before noon, learn  in the afternoon and  eat no dinner. The pagoda also  operates a school for the study of Buddhism and Sanskrit.

It’s  located 12km from Soc Trang,  towards Bac Lieu, on Hwy 1A.

Festivals & Events

Every year , the Khmer community holds  the Oc Bom Boc Festival (called  as Bon Om Touk or the Water Festival in Cambodia), with longboat races on the Soc Trang River. Races are held  according to the lunar calendar on the 15th day of the 10th moon, which roughly means November. The races begin  at noon, but things get jumping in Soc Trang the evening before. The event appeals to   visitors from  all around Viet nam and even Cambodia, so hotel space is at a premium.

Sleeping & Eating

Soc Trang has  lots of hotels but it’s quite difficult  to be particularly excited  about any of them, and you’re better off  keeping on  to Can Tho.  Few restaurants in Soc Trang have menus in English , and prices are often omitted from the Vietnamese ones.

Que Huong Hotel HOTEL $

( 079-361 6122; 128 Ð Nguyen Trung Truc; r 270,000d, ste 450,000-600,000d)  Rooms here are in better shape than the no- nonsense exterior might first  suggest. The suites  include a sunken bath and a full-size bar, though  drinks are not included. There is wi-fi  in lobby only.

Quan Hung VIETNAMESE $

(24/5 Ð Hung Vuong; mains 40,000-130,000d) Down a lane off the main road into town,  this large, open-sided restaurant is perpetually popular, serving up  tasty  grilled meat and fish. If there are a few of you,  try a hotpot.

Getting There & Away

 Buses run between Soc Trang and  most Mekong cities. The bus station is on Hwy 1A, near the corner of Ð Hung Vuong, which is the  main road into town.  The 90-minute ride to Can Tho costs 60,000d; to Bac Lieu, 65,000d; and to Ha Tien, 130,000d.

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Mekong Delta Travel 1, 2 and 3 Days – Mekong River Vietnam

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