Difference between revisions of "Ha Tien"
Revision as of 09:14, 3 March 2013
Ha Tien is a seaside town in Kien Giang Province in Southern Vietnam. It is at the western end of the Mekong Delta close to the Cambodian border. Although a tourist spot, it doesn't see many western visitors due to its remoteness.
The bus terminal is west of the city center (it was moved there from To Chau on the other side of the bay around January 2008). There are buses from Ho Chi Minh City's Mien Tay terminal (about 8h) as well as from Can Tho and Chau Doc. The connection from Can Tho often requires a change in Rach Soi or Rach Gia from where it is about 1h.
The border near Ha Tien (7km to the north) was opened for tourists in 2007. As of late 2010, it is possible for tourists of most nationalities to enter Vietnam via this border crossing without the need for a visa. However it applies only for stays of up to 15 days, and you can only visit the so called "Special Economic Zone", which is essentially the town of Ha Tien, and the area between the town and the border, including Mui Nai beach. You must not travel further into Vietnam. (The officials at the border will tell you that you cannot go to Phu Quoc island with the visa and may not issue you a visa at all without a small bribe.) For ventures further into Vietnam, a visa is needed prior to arrival at the border.
To get to the border from Cambodia you can hire a motobike taxi from Kampot ($10), Kep ($7), or Kampong Trach ($5). The road can vary in condition from paved and bumpy to packed dirt and bumpy, be prepared for a slightly white knuckled ride depending on the daring nature of your driver and the road can also be very dusty in the dry season. Also, be aware that there seem to be Vietnamese drivers now waiting well inside the Cambodian side waiting to pickup (poach) prospective travelers to take them across the border into town. Your driver may stop here to talk with them and seem to suggest you go with them. A ride to town should be $3-4 or less (it is only 7 km and the road is well paved on the Vietnamese side.) If you can't agree on a price there you can simply have your Cambodian driver take you to the border where you can cross over and have the drivers on the other side fight over you.
The centre of town is easily walkable with Tran Hau the main commercial street running along the seaside between the big bridge for road traffic (Cau To Chau) and the former pontoon bridge for pedestrians (Cau Phao, removed in early 2007). Many moto drivers situated at various strategic points all over town. Any journey in town, no more than 20,000 dong, e.g.to the ferry port, or bus station. To the border 40-50,000 dong. There are also two main metered taxi companies, the omnipresent Mai Linh, and Ha Tien Development Corp. It is possible to rent motorbikes by the day (approx 6USD) or pedal cycles (approx 2USD) in several locations in the town.
Try to get one of the tourist maps where the locations of the cave temples are indicated.
Plenty of small hidden Chinese temples, scattered all over town, often down small back streets. The Mac Cuu Family tombs, set on a sprawling hillside at the end of Mac Cuu street. At the border with Cambodia (actually in Cambodia) are 6 casinos - only one sizeable one, the others smaller gambling dens featuring mainly Chinese games.
There are several large markets in Ha Tien, on the riverfront near to the road bridge over the Dong Ho inlet is the fish, meat and fruit market and also a large new covered market for clothes and household goods. In the evening there is a large night market, which springs up around the old market hall. This is situated in Tuan Phu Dat, which is right opposite the Ha Tien floating restaurant on the Dong Ho inlet. Very cheap good quality clothing, also souvenirs and costume jewellery. Some food stalls in the old market hall also.
There is no shortage of options for accommodation in this town. It seems that every other building is either a Khach San (hotel) or a Phong Tro (a place that has rooms to rent). The epicentre of sleeping options can be considered the area delimited by Tran Hau, Mach Thien Tich and Chi Lang streets.
Bao Tam near to the central market has ac/hot water rooms/tv for 170,000 Dong. Very clean
Crossing the boarder with a Vietnamese motobicycle is easily possible. Try to park your motobike in such a way that the Vietnamese check-out officer doesn't see it (leave your helmet outside!). After you got your stamp you can just go. The Cambodian officers don't care about it.
Buses to Phnom Penh require one change of vehicle in Cambodia.
Ha Tien is one of the two ports that serve Phu Quoc Island. There are currently(Jan 2011) two boats daily leaving Ha Tien at 08.00 (cost 230,000 dong) and 13.30 (cost 190,000 dong) Boats take about 2 hours to make the crossing,and arrive at the eastern side of the island. Two boats daily from Phu Quoc to Ha Tien, leave at 08.00 and 14.00. In Feb 2011 these two ferries were joined by a large car ferry. This takes slightly longer than the small fast ferries, and berths in Phu Quoc in the N/E corner. Costs 165,000 dong and 100,000 dong for a motorcycle. Stories on the web about these boats being un-seaworthy are outdated,the boats are now reasonably modern purpose built fast ferries.
Be aware of a bus company called M@ttos. The fare to Can Tho is 180,000 dong/US$9, distance 210 km. Bus was in very bad condition, reckless driver who honked the entire time on board, very rude ticket seller who threw tourists off the bus in the middle of nowhere and made them pay and take another bus in even worse condition to the destination. Apparently some individuals do this in Vietnam for their dislike of tourists. Avoid this at all cost and try to travel with a trust-worthing bus company.