Photo: Big streets, big trees.

Introduction

Our rating:

Sleepy Cao Lanh feels like it is still trying to grow into the boots that come with the territory of being a provincial capital—wide pavements line a grid of broad boulevards which see remarkably light traffic. The town’s centrepiece, a quite attractive tree-filled park and pond, is deserted much of the daylight hours, seeing murmurs of life just in the early morning and around dusk.



The town (officially a city, but it feels more like a town) doesn’t figure on too many traveller’s itineraries—it sits on the “wrong” side of the Mekong for overlanders heading to Cambodia via Chau Doc—and while it can serve as a launching point for a couple of interesting out of town spots, in the city itself we are not really talking top shelf attractions.

Ho Chi Minh’s Dad was here. Photo taken in or around Cao Lanh, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Ho Chi Minh’s Dad was here. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Historically Cao Lanh was the capital of Kien Phong province, which was merged with Sa Dec province in 1976, the two becoming Dong Thap province, with Sa Dec as the capital. The crown jewels were then moved to Cao Lanh in 1994, leaving Sa Dec to drift back into its seemingly more comfortable low key, and charming self. Today the province straddles the Mekong River, running north to the Khmer frontier and bordering Tien Giang (home to My Tho) and Vinh Long to east, and Can Tho and An Giang (home to Chau Doc) to the south and west.

While these geographic tooing and froing are of little importance to the average traveller, they do show how intermingled the area is. Cao Lanh and Sa Dec are quite close together and you could easily stay in either to visit the outlying sites, though Cao Lanh is more convenient for Cu Lao Gieng and Tram Chin National Park while Sa Dec is better for Xeo Quyt and the flower gardens. Choose one or the other—or do what we did and try both. Both towns have an adequate selection of places to stay and no shortage of decent restaurants and cafes.

Tram Chin is worth a look. Photo taken in or around Cao Lanh, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Tram Chin is worth a look. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Orientation
Central Cao Lanh is laid out on an easy to navigate, northwest–facing grid, with the Cao Lang River to the west and the Dinh Trung river to the east (they meet a little to the south of town). At the centre of town you’ll find the pleasant Temple of Literature park, with the bulk of the bar and restaurant scene to the north of here. The primary throughfares are the north–south running 30 Thang 4 at the western edge of town which intersects with the (roughly) east–west running Nguyen Hue. On the latter you’ll find plenty of ATMs and retail outlets.

Cao Lanh’s market is a couple of blocks south of Nguyen Hue, with the bus station conveniently set a black to the east of the market.

Dong Thap Tourism is on Doc Binh Kieu, just off the intersection with Nguyen Hue. We found the English–speaking staff to be helpful and friendly, with an ample supply of brochures (of varying usefulness!) on hand. They can also arrange tours to outlying sites, but in some cases the “tour” was nothing more than arranging a xe–om to take you somewhere—you will save money doing this yourself or through your hotel.

Honouring the fallen. Photo taken in or around Cao Lanh, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Honouring the fallen. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Thai Hoa International Hospital is in the northern reaches of town and was the largest, most modern–looking hospital we came across.

Dong Thap Tourist Office 2 Doc Binh Kiew St, Cao Lanh T: (0277) 387 3025 http://www.dongthaptourist.com
Thai Hoa International Hospital 1 Le Thi Rieng, Cao Lanh. T: (0673) 878 878 http://thaihoahospital.com/

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Cao Lanh.
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