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.
By Stuart McDonald.