Bordering Cambodia, An Giang province is best-known for being home to pastel-painted Chau Doc, the closest large town to the Vietnamese/Cambodian border crossing on the Mekong River. Wedged between the Cambodian frontier, Kieng Giang and Can Tho provinces to the south and Dong Thap province to the north, An Giang is a particularly riverine province, with both the Bassac and Mekong Rivers within its boundaries.
The nondescript provincial capital Long Xuyen lies around 50km southeast of the border with Cambodia. Some travellers may find it convenient to pass through here for its transportation connections but there are otherwise few other reasons to stay in the capital.
Chau Doc sits at the junction of a tributary linking the Bassac and Mekong Rivers and the Bassac River itself. An incredibly friendly and bustling little city, it has a colour scheme to match its ambience, with bright pastel hues of green, blue and purple adorning many of the newer shopfronts. If you're arriving here from Cambodia, be prepared for the shock into technicolour paradise.
Chau Doc locals are known for being very warm and approachable -- even the xe dap loi drivers, as pestering as they are, are friendly. English is spoken in most of the foreigner-targeted guesthouses and hotels, and most restaurants have an English menu.
A highlight of a visit to Chau Doc is a boat trip on one of the small paddle boats that collect near the western end of the park. For a few dollars an hour they'll paddle you around the many floating raft houses and fish farms. Doing this at dawn can be very photogenic and rewarding.
A second attraction, just outside Chau Doc, is Sam Mountain -- more of a hillock in fact -- which has reasonable views over the surrounds. The views are pretty rather than spectacular, though when combined with a visit to the pagodas around the hill's base, this makes a worthwhile afternoon jaunt.
Chau Doc is also the closest large town to the Vietnamese/Cambodian river border crossing. If you're heading to or from Phnom Penh by boat, you'll pass through Chau Doc, so try to allow for an overnight stay.
Aside from its river scenery and hilltop vistas, An Giang province, in the heart of what Cambodians consider to be Kampuchea Krom, bears many of the same war-time scars as neighbouring Cambodia. During the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot's forces made a number of bloody incursions along the border with An Giang. In April of 1978 a massacre took place in the hamlet of Ba Chuc, some 50km southwest of Chau Doc, with over 3,000 people killed. While a memorial has been erected to the memory of those murdered, it's unfortunately not easily visited from Chau Doc unless you're willing to pay for a day-long tour.
Text and/or map last updated on 30th October, 2013.
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Slow and Fast Boats from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh
We booked a 3 day Mekong Delta Tour in Saigon. When we got to Chau Doc the receipt was taken away from us. As part of our tour we stayed at the Thanh Nam 2 hotel.
When we go up in the morning the lady said that the slow boat had been cancelled so we would have to take a bus for $10. I told Duyen that I suspected a scam but decided to wait for reinforcements in the form of the German couple. When they arrived I informed them of what had transpired and got stuck into the receptionist that had informed us of the cancellation. I politely asked her for her name which she gave me. I then asked her for her identity number but that was not forthcoming. I informed her that we had a contract to go to Phnom Penh at the booking company's expense. She said that was not her problem. I pointed out that her company had been paid for the trip. She acknowledged that but said that they would not give us transportation to Phnom Penh other than by the bus which was going to cost us $10 each. Duyen later told me that some Vietnamese people came into the office and asked what it cost for a bus ticket to Phnom Penh and were told it was $6. So her company was going to pocket the money paid for the slow boat by us, get the normal commission on the sale of the bus ticket then $4 for each bus ticket. That is a nice little earner where the average wage is about $5 a day. I was not going to take this lying down so I informed her that I was going to inform Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and Travelfish of their scam. After that I told her I was going to inform the minister for Vietnamese tourism as well. I still intend to do all of that. Then Duyen and the German couple got on their mobile phones. This must of worried her as she was shaking. She got on her phone and after about 20 minutes the slow boat was operational again.
We did our scheduled tour of the fish farm then about 12 tourists were taken to the border where a ce man took our passports and got Vietnamese exit stamps for us. He then informed us he had to go by motorcycle for 25 minutes to the Cambodian border to get our passports processed. When he came back it turned out that everyone had been charged $5 extra for his 'services'. He made 12 times the average Vietnamese wage in an hour. After that we had to walk to the Cambodian border and complete the process. We could have done it all ourselves. People in our group who had paid for a 'fast boat' to Cambodia got a bus ride instead. Instead of the 8 hour slow boat ride we got a 2 1/2 hour bus ride proceeded by a 2 hour boat ride. Everyone with us was scammed at least once but some twice.
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By Travelguy1 (dabbler)
Written on 3rd July, 2013 after a visit to Chau Doc in June, 2013
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