Photo: Vietnam has plenty of statues.

Things to see and do

Ben Tre lacks the floating markets that can be visited from other Delta centres like Can Tho, Vinh Long or Chau Doc, but a boat trip, preferably in a very small boat, is still well worthwhile.

Rather pretty. Photo taken in or around Ben Tre, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Rather pretty. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Boat trips can be arranged through your guesthouse or homestay, standing around on the river’s edge looking like a tourist (they’ll find you) or by joining an organised tour (this will be in a bigger boat) with Nam Bo tours who have a pier and boat landing on the river down near the Hung Vuong Hotel on the river’s edge.

Because you’ll not be visiting any large floating markets, the smaller the boat the better so that you’re able to be taken into smaller canals, which will better allow you to experience and lush beauty of the area. We organised a sampan through our accommodation (Ba Danh Homestay), who charged us 200,000 dong for a couple of hours paddling around.

Not sure my rower was as happy to be there as I was. Photo taken in or around Ben Tre, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Not sure my rower was as happy to be there as I was. Photo: Stuart McDonald

This struck us as solid value because, as the homestay is on a quiet canal be were able to spend most of the time being paddled around without much sight of the modern world. It was a beautiful trip, with kingfishers darting between the palms as our boatman slowly paddling along till we reached the wider Ben Tre River, at which point we turned and returned to where we started.

There were no visits to market handicrafts, coconut candy factories, or anything else—just us on the boat in the river. It was great and two hours was just about the right amount of time.

Signs of civilisation. Photo taken in or around Ben Tre, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Signs of civilisation. Photo: Stuart McDonald

If you are on a bigger boat, say with Nam Bo, you’ll more likely be taken further afield, perhaps to see coconuts being loaded onto large vessels for shipment elsewhere (something we have seen in the past at Ben Tre), but on the downside, you may have twenty other people on the boat with you. When we walked up and asked, they quoted us 300,000 dong per person for a three hour group tour. Our preference is for a sampan which holds just one (two at a squeeze) and the boatman.

Hung Vuong, Ben Tre

Set in a classic two story yellow building with blue shutters and white detailing, the grand tree-filled grounds here are a favourite hangout for canoodling locals whiling away the slow hours in each other’s arms—the Ben Tre Museum is also well worth a look.

Just the building is an attraction. Photo taken in or around Ben Tre, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Just the building is an attraction. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Unusually for Vietnamese provincial museums, the Ben Tre Revolutionary Museum is reasonably well captioned in both Vietnamese and English. You’ll still come across the occasional “Running dogs of capitalism” style jingoistic language, but that aside the captions are generally informative. So bravo for that.

The museum is split across two floors and each had some points of considerable interest to us, and while you could spin through the museum in just 30 minutes, if you have some interest in the Vietnam’s war period, there is plenty to keep your attention here and you could easily spend a couple of hours working your way through.

We love the maps here. Photo taken in or around Ben Tre, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

We love the maps here. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Downstairs, we enjoyed the maps that are displayed in a few spots on the ground floor. Look out for the map with Chinese characters which is dated to 1837 and two more recent French maps dated to 1882 and 1900—an interesting contrast in styles and what was important to the cartographers.

Upstairs the museum has a fascinating photographic display tracing Vietnam’s wartime period. Look for the photos of Ben Tre under aerial bombardment in 1968—note the hoarding and civilians standing in doorways watching as smoke rises in the distance. Another photo shows South Vietnamese troops seemingly waterboarding a detainee. There are also displays of some of the ghastly traps Viet Cong soldiers would hide hoping to main and kill their enemy. The captioning on some of the photos here is far from fairly–minded, but a walk through is sobering.





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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Ben Tre? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.


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