CHAU DOC - VIETNAM - MEKONG RIVER
One of the very beautiful place of the Mekong Delta - Chau doc, as close as you can get to Cambodia without being in it. The Bassac River flows through the town and is a border crossing for river borne traffic, and the small Sam Mountain has an excellent view of the flat plain on the other side. It’s an attractive, busy place with a good hotel and several interesting attractions.
Perched on the banks of the Bassac River, Chau Doc is a pleasant town near the Cambodian border with sizable Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities. Its cultural diversity – apparent in the mosques, temples, churches and nearby pilgrimage sites – makes it a fascinating place to explore even if you aren’t headed to Cambodia. Taking a boat trip to the Cham communities across the river is another highlight, though its addictive market and peaceful waterfront make fine backdrops to a few days of relaxing before heading out.
It became part of Vietnam in the middle of the 18th century as a gift, a reward for helping the Cambodian monarch to put down an insurrection. Unsurprisingly, it has a high proportion of ethnic Kh’mer people among the population here, easily identifiable by their darker skins and a chequered scarf instead of Vietnam’s ubiquitous conical hat. There’s also a fair number of ethic Cham and Chinese people, and enough Christians to fill a local cathedral, making up a rare pot-pourri of cultures and religions.
Further along the riverfront there are several traditional stilt houses.
A short boat trip across the Bassac takes you to several floating fish farms and villages. They’re modified house-boats - a trap-door in the floor provides access to nets under the boat where the fish are grown. A little further takes you to the other bank and a Cham community. Once you’ve tip-toed across the stepping stones to avoid the mud, you walk through the stilt house village to the mosque.
Although sharing the same linguistic and historical tradition, the Cham are divided into two quite distinct religious communities, the Hindu Chams and the Cham Bani, or Muslims. The latter live mainly in the Chau Doc region and are easily distinguished by the men's preferred headgear - a crimson fez with a long golden tassel, or white Muslim prayer cap.