A few moderately interesting distractions
Published/Last edited or updated: 8th September, 2018
In town, one of Cao Lanh’s main claims to fame is as the resting place of Nguyen Sinh Sac, the father of Ho Chi Minh.
According to Duiker’s Ho Chi Minh, he died in the region near penniless and distant from his son in 1929, but you wouldn’t think that wandering the expansive memorial garden and tomb located in the southwest reaches of town.
To our mind the tomb looked like a clam shell, but it is apparently a stylised lotus petal lined with nine (equally stylised) dragon heads. In Vietnamese the Mekong is called "Cuu Long", which means Nine Dragons—named after the river’s (official) nine mouths, and the nine dragon heads atop the clam shell, sorry, lotus leaf, pay homage to this, suggesting that the people of the nine river delta are looking over Nguyen Sinh Sac.
Also within the sprawling gardens is a life-size replica of Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house in Hanoi. While you are not allowed inside, it makes for a pretty photo and if you’re not going to Hanoi, well you can tick it off here. Just across the way from the stilt house is a small 1960s style building which houses a motley collection of unlabelled (in English) photos. Overall we found the park of a surprising scale considering his humble end, but if you’re already in the area, (say to visit the Dong Thap Museum) then this is worth the extra ten minutes to walk to. There is also a large, garish Chinese pagoda next door.
Nearby, the Dong Thap Museum is a surprisingly comprehensive and well laid out museum, well worth an hour of your time should you find yourself in Cao Lanh. The collections is, by Vietnamese museum standards, fairly predictable, with a collection of war booty (from both sides—it includes both a US helicopter and a Mig–17) in the surrounding grounds, the ground floor dedicated to natural history and the upper floor tracing the region’s more modern history.
Some of the exhibits are tatty (or was that tacky), with the stuffed animals and fish a bit past their sell by date, but we enjoyed some of the other exhibits, including the musical instruments, fishing basketry and agricultural tools. The water mine was also pretty impressive.
As with many museums, there is considerable floor space dedicated to the wars, with tactical maps illustrating thrusts and parries, but the English labelling in this area was unfortunately minimal. Note also upon entry the tall mural with a bunch of people standing atop crushed tools of war—the flag they’re waving (red and blue bands with a yellow star) is that of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (better known as the Viet Cong). Allow an hour for a visit, though you could skip through quicker if you wanted. On the opening hours, the museum is officially open seven days a week, but in practise, it was closed on the Sunday we arrived in Cao Lanh.
The city has a number of other public parks of which the “Temple of Literature” park and Khong Tu lake are the centrepiece. Decorated with the occasional cluster of zebras and giraffes, the park is undeniably pleasant to walk around, especially in the late morning or early evening (when some of the chairs are taken over by canoodling couples). In the morning, grab an iced coffee from one of the cafes near the Huong Sen Hotel on the south side of the park and plonk yourself down by the lake’s edge. The Temple of Literature faces onto the west bank of the lake—it was apparently originally a public library, though it was unclear what is planned for it now.
To the east of town, just over the Dinh Trung river is a large monument—our map described it as the “Revolutionary Martyr Monument”—dedicated to those who died fighting and while it is not worth driving across the Delta for, sitting across a lotus filled pond, with a magnificent socialist statue out front, it makes for a pleasant diversion before dinner.
Dong Thap Museum: 226 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Cao Lanh T: (02773) 851 342; (02773) 874 983 http://baotangdongthap.vn/ Mo–Su: 07:00–11:30 & 13:30–17:00 Admission free
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.