Ben Tre is the capital of eponymous Ben Tre Province in Southern Vietnam. Although only a 20-min ferry-ride away from bustling My Tho, this seems to be barrier enough to give the town a genuine backwater feeling. Tourists are still a scarce species and locals are open and friendly.
Ben Tre Province provides some of the most beautiful scenery in the Mekong delta. The milk coffee coloured waters wind their way along small channels lined with water palms, thatch, and bamboo houses are nestled in the lush orchards. The famous Vietnamese poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu was born in Ben Tre Province.
There is a ferry from Vinh Long Province to the northwestern part of the island. Again you may want to hire some sort of transport to cover the remaining distance to Ben Tre town. There is also Bus 8 from the ferry pier to Ben Tre. It seems frequent, costs about 25,000 dong for a 2-hr trip. You will need a taxi (moto ~ 20,000 dong for 10-min ride). Pay attention when arriving in Ben Tre as the bus goes to the outer bus station. Best is to stop at the roundabout after the two big bridges and Mat Kinh Dien Bien Phu optic shop and take a motorbike taxi (20,000 dong) to the town centre.
Direct minibus services from Ho Chi Minh City are to be found at Cholon and Mien Tay bus station.
- Bus from Mien Tay: 49,000 dong, 1½ hr, air con, first bus around 06:30
A bridge connects the city to My Tho so the bus ride is direct, without a ferry. On arrival at the bus station in Ben Tre, a very welcoming man with good English will try to get you to his guesthouse by showing books and stuff. In fact, the ride there takes you back where your bus came from, halfway to My Tho, about 10 km from Ben Tre. Make sure to get from the Ben Tre bus station into the town of Ben Tre, not elsewhere.
The town stretches along the river, so a bicycle or a motorbike are the best way to get around.
There are no real sights in their own right, but you could have a look at the unspoiled market or visit the rice wine factory on the south bank, 0.5 km west of the old bridge. You can also visit the inevitable coconut candy factory here. It's a must if you haven't been to one yet, since in this "factory" basically everything is done by hand.
Trung Tam Dieu/Ben Tre tour operation centre (closed during lunch) has some private tours in Ben Tre by boat or by bike and homestay tour. It also gives information on the city.
- 1 Coconut Candy Factory, 212B Dai Lo Dong Khoi. There are apparently four factories across town. The shop selling the coconut candy (keo dua) is in the front and the factory is in the back. The visit of the factory where you see the women making the handmade candy is free (there is a second shop across the street). Free.
- Explore the Delta. Boat trips are one of the nicest ways to negotiate the network of channels, but the land in between the waters is just as fascinating. It's fun to follow some of the small trails along the channels, crossing streams on very basic bridges and walking past fruit and coconut orchards.
- 1 Coop Mart (near Cong Vien Dong Khoi Park, north of the lake). Food, department store, game center.
The usual food stalls are found around the market. Be warned that one of the favourite soups in the delta, hu tieu, contains boiled intestines and liver. There is also a floating restaurant near the old bridge. Sweet bakery for breakfast? Go to the huge Coop Mart (08:00-22:00) just behind street Hai Ba Trung.
- Ninh Kiều quán, 65A Đồng Khởi Blvd. Big seafood restaurant right at the beginning of town. Very popular with Vietnamese office workers and families. 50,000-100,000 dong.
Coldest beer in Ben Tre? Go to the Oasis.
- Ben Tre Hotel, 8/2 Tran Quoc Tuan, ☏ .
- Forever Green Resort.
- Government Guesthouse, 148 Hung Vuong, ☏ .
- Hai Long Hotel, 500a2 Nguyen Thi Dinh Street, Phu Tan Ward, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 20 rooms. From 215,000 dong.
- Ham Luong Hotel, Số 200 C, Đường Hùng Vương, P.5, TP, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. One of the best hotels in Ben Tre with outside swimming pool, steam bath and sauna. Buffet breakfast is a mix of Asian and Western food. All rooms have Internet, TV with English channels. Laundry, fitness gym, karaoke, massage, jacuzzi, car rental, boat, bicycle, information service. Single/double/triple/quad: standard 300,000/560,000/na/na; superior 500,000/610,000/710,000/810,000 dong.
- Khach San Dong Khoi, 16, Hai Ba Trung, Phuong 2 (Town centre, north of lake), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Hot water except in cheapest rooms. Free Wi-Fi, restaurant, karaoke, massage. 150,000-240,000 dong. Strangely prices dropped if check-in after 16:00.
- Khach San Phuong Hoang, 28, Hai Ba Trung, Phuong 2 (town center, north of Ho Truc Giang Lake), ☏ . Cold shower. Fan or air-con. Free Wi-Fi. Limited English-speaking staff. 120,000-180,000 dong.
- Nha Nghi 99, 73, Phan Ngoc Tong, Phuong 2 (Town centre, street south of lake), ☏ . Air-con, no Wi-Fi, limited English-speaking staff. 150,000 dong.
- Oasis Hotel, 151 My Thanh An (Across river), ☏ . Kiwi and Vietnamese owners. Free Wi-Fi, swimming-pool, English, Viet, Khmer spoken. Cold beer, local knowledge. Half day Mekong boat tours including coconut factory and cycling $28.
- Que Huong, 38 Hai Ba Trung (Red house in front of the town's lake.), ☏ . Good service, limited English and friendly. All rooms with hot shower and fresh towel. 100,000-180,000 dong.
- Viet Uc Hotel, 144 Hùng Vương, Ward 3, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com.
- Trade Union Hotel, 50 Hai Ba Trung, ☏ .
Buses leave from the outer bus station. There are get a minibus to My Tho or Ho Chi Minh City from inside town.
- Ho Chi Minh City - 70,000 dong, on Tran Quoc Tuan St north of the lake.
- My Tho - ~20,000 dong, on Dong Khoi St, bus stop near school
- Can Tho - 75,000 dong, 3 hr, non air con 30 seater bus, leaves 4 times a day with the last one at 16:00
The boats leave between 08:30 and 09:00 every day. It takes a long time, but it's an adventurous and cheap option (expect to pay between 60,000-120,000 dong per person). They leave from the area east of the new bridge. Boats are light blue and will take you to: