As tourism took off in the Mekong Delta, the picturesque little province of Ben Tre was always one ferry beyond the tourist traffic of My Tho and consequently developed at a more languid pace, although the opening of the Rach Mieu Bridge from My Tho funneled more visitors into the area. The town’s sleepy waterfront, lined with ageing villas, is easy to explore on foot, as is the rustic settlement across the bridge to the south of the centre. This is also a good place to arrange boat trips in the area, particularly for those wanting to escape the tour bus bustle.
Ben Tre is famous for its keo dua (coconut candy). Many local women work in small factories making these sweets, spending their days boiling cauldrons of the sticky coconut goo before rolling it out and slicing sections off into squares.
(Bao Tang Ben Tre; Ð Hung Vuong; 8-11am & 1-5pm) In an ageing but atmospheric old yellow villa, this museum displays the usual assortment of rusty weapons, American War photos and artefacts yielded from archaeological digs.
(075-382 9618; www.bentretourist.vn; 65 Ð Dong Khoi; 7-11am & 1-5pm) Bike, motorboat and speedboat rental; also arranges excursions and tours.
(075-382 2408; 166 Ð Hung Vuong; d/tw/ste 350,000/370,000/530,000d) Good-value Hung Vuong has an attractive riverfront location, plus large clean rooms with tiled floors, polished wooden furnishings and decent bathrooms.
(http://bentrehoteloasis.com; 151C My An C, My Thanh An; d US$27-35, f US$42) There’s always a warm welcome at this popular, bright yellow and small hotel, run by an affable and very helpful couple. It’s south of the river and best reached by taxi.
( 075-356 0560; www.hamluongtourist.com.vn; 200 Ð Hùng Vương; đ US$23-29, ste US$43) The large, modern, riverfront Hàm Lượng has huge, starkly decorated corridors, but the rooms are nicely furnished and there’s a swimming pool and gym.
( 075-382 2873; 40 Ð Phan Ngoc Tong; mains 20,000-60,000d) Centrally located, this place attracts a lively local crowd thanks to its popular grilled chicken, best washed down with draught beer.
Getting There & Away
Buses stop at the big bus station (Ben Xe Ben Tre, Hwy 60), 5km northwest of the town centre (30,000d by xe om). Destinations include HCMC (67,000d), Can Tho (55,000d), Ca Mau (103,000d) and Ha Tien (134,000d). The last buses to HCMC depart between 4pm and 5pm.
Slow boats can be rented at the public pier near the market. Figure on roughly 70,000d to 90,000d per hour, with a minimum of two hours cruising the local canals.