"I walked Chau Doc from one end to the other during the morning, and visited Chau Phu Temple. But the midday heat got the better of me and I headed back to my air conditioned room where I read and blogged for an hour or two. I went out again later as I had arranged to meet this morning's guide, this time for a moto ride to Sam Mountain.
The mountain is not really high, it just seems that way because of the plains of the Mekong region. It's considered a local pilgrimage site because it's home to many shrines and temples. The most religiously significant is the Ba Chua Xu Temple, which has white marble statues in the grounds, including one of 'happy buddha'.
I have managed to see a lot in the one full day I had in Chau Doc. Tomorrow I move on to Can Tho, the largest town in the Mekong Delta, where I'll visit a floating market".
Street life in Chau Doc
The Covered Market
Chau Doc (in the centre of the Mekong Delta) - is situated along the banks of the Hau Giang River (or Bassac River), and sees in the course of the year many
travellers pass by their city, travelling to or from Cambodia. It is a sympathetic, small town with significant Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities. This is clearly to be seen at the mosques, temples, churches and the nearby pilgrimage places. Chau Doc is an important border crossing to Cambodia after you have travelled in Vietnam.
Chau Doc is a nice, small town where you can take the boat to Phnom Phen. Chau Doc market is one of the most vibrant and
colourful in the Mekong Delta. It is the place where the locals do their shopping. There is also a huge variety of herbs, vegetables and fresh fish. You can also buy delicious local specialties such as grilled sticky rice stuffed with banana and other delicacies. The vendors are not pushy, like many of the other markets. Market women make this one of the friendliest markets.
This market is definitely worth a visit to see the daily life of the people of Chau Doc. They can find everything they need. At the end of the market is an interesting temple. It is the Chau Phu Temple. Here you can have a look inside the temple. It is colourful with banners and silk curtains. It is quiet inside with a few locals, who pray and burn incense. There are special altars for women and men. Ho Chi Minh ("Uncle Ho") has its own place on one of the altars. Visitors show their respects to him by burning incense.
A walk along the river side is certainly great for you. There's a chance you'll encounter many young people, who are eager (but they are also a little shy) to get into conversation with you. Such a walk is nice after a morning haggling on the colourful market of Chau Doc.
Around Chau Doc is the region, where some groups of Muslim Cham settled in the 18th century, after they were expelled from Central and South Vietnam by the then Vietnamese. There were quite a few wars preceded in several centuries (other Cham clans settled in Cambodia - Kompong Cham means "Cham Landing" - Malaysia and the Chinese island of Hainan).
Across the river are still few Cham communities, which you can visit.
At a distance of 7 km from the center of Chau Doc you will find the mountain Sam (Sam Mountain). This is a sacred hill of 230 meters. It is the only hill in the area and it is full of temples and pagodas, both at the foot of the hill, as on top. The way to the mountain is tortuous and is about bad asphalt. The view from the top (1 hour climb) is superb.
This is a great place from which you can see thousands of hectares of rice fields in the Mekong Delta. There is not much to do on top of the mountain. There is only a small temple, no restaurant and no souvenir shop. The view across the flat countryside is spectacular. You can see how villages were built on elevated portions (sort mounds) to prevent flooding. You get a "helicopter view" on the delta of the Mekong.
The Ba Chua Xu Temple
Ba Chua Xu Temple is located at the foot of Sam Mountain. The temple was built in 1820 according to a legend. In the early 1800s the locals found in the forest a female statue made made of marble. They regarded her as their "country lady". They called her Ba Chua Xu. They built the temple to worship the lady in the hope that they would bring them greater crops, happiness and a richer life.
The local people consider Ba Chua Xu as the patron goddess of business, health and protector of the Vietnamese border.
The bird sanctuary "Tra Su" is about 23 km from Chau Doc and it consists of a protected forest with cajuput trees and swamp, where is a wide variety of bird life, including storks, herons, cormorants, peacocks and water cocks. A boat trip through the bird sanctuary along with a hike to a lookout tower takes a few hours and costs about $ 7 per person. Even if you are not a bird lover, you'll probably enjoy this watery wonderland with its huge water lilies and moss-shrouded trees.
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