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Ha Tien Travel Blog

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Hillside monestary in Ha Tien
  

Ha Tien was much larger than I would have expected, bigger than Kampot or Sihanoukville. I had the moto driver bring me to the dock from which the boat leaves for Phu Quoc tomorrow morning; before exploring the town, I needed to know where to go to get out of it. Since the driver asked no money for hidden fees for the two hour ride from Kampot, I had him recommend a hotel even though there were several in the immediate vicinity - the Hoa Mai being closest. He would receive a small commission from any proprietor for taking me to their establishment so gladly brought me to the Thien Long Hotel.

 

The beaming hotel manager made a call then quickly handed me the phone. A woman's voice in perfect English stated that the rooms were 100,000 Ðong with air-conditioning and 80,000 with fan.

Tran Hua Street food venders
In the rather uncomfortable high heat and humidity, I opted for the air-con room which equaled roughly US$ 5.75. My third-floor spacious room was equipped with a small Sanyo fridge, a wall-mounted television, two double beds, a ceiling fan, and a small cabinet. The large bathroom had only cold water but there was little need for hot in the tropics. A window faced the wall of a next-door building but would be fine for letting in morning light. The TV and air con had remote controls. Like every hotel that I had stayed at in Vietnam, the place felt new, fresh, roomy, and clean.

 

The Thien Long Hotel was an easy 250-yard walk to the dock area, either along the waterfront or along Tran Hua, a main street lined with eateries, hotels, stores, and shops. I set out looking for a bank to get Vietnamese currency, wanting to change some dollars to see exactly what the exchange rate was but only found an ATM machine.

Inbound fishing boat
It spat out two million Vietnamese Ðong in denominations of 100,000 and gave me my card back. I love those machines. I had been told the exchange rate was about 17,300 Vietnamese Ðong to the U.S. Dollar so the two million should be about $116 - enough to last several days and for me to get organized.

 

With cash in my pocket, I took a fine meal of shrimp and rice at the Me Trang, a floating barge converted into a coffee shop-restaurant. My waterside open-air table was a nice perch to watch fishing boats motoring to and from the sea, others setting nearby nets, and taxi boats shuttling passengers across the river. I took a few photos then retreated to the hotel to settle in for a couple of hours.

 

I strolled Tran Hua again later in the afternoon toward the dock area then beyond - where it opens up to a park along the riverfront.

Fountain in the park
Traffic thickened with mostly motorbikes and bicycles as people scurried home from work or school. Being the only foreigner wandering around was a bit uncomforting; I prefer blending unnoticed to explore unfamiliar streets at a leisure pace. Whenever I pulled my camera out, I was watched curiously by everyone within eyesight so did not take as many photos as I would have liked.

 

Young teens entered the park to fly kites and they all shouted with shy giggles "Hello!"  and "What is your name?"  or "Where are you from?" to practice English they learn in school. Most of the post-war generation, their parents, spoke little or no English. Those few that did approached to ask where I was staying, for how long, and where I was going.

Kite flyer
All said that the boat to Phu Quoc leaves from a different harbor or a different town altogether; some, that there was no boat at all tomorrow then offered transport to the distant towns or area tours. I chatted with each, knowing they were only looking to earn easy money from someone new and maybe vulnerable. Once hired, however, they would be grateful, their conniving trickery turning to honest loyalty.

 

By early evening, tent shelters, folding tables, and display cases were being set up for the daily night market. Burlap bundles and cardboard cartons of clothing, shoes, toys, seashell decorations, and even jewelry were being unpacked and sorted into neat colorful arrangements along the river side of Tran Hua Street. White smoke drifted from food venders who were already opened for business.

Assorted birds

 

I crossed the street to the display case of a full-time sidewalk vender, pointed to a Saigon Beer, then took one of the red plastic chairs at a low table. The bottle was warm but served with a heavy glass mug filled with ice. At last I was able to relax unnoticed; no longer an attraction but finally the observer. An even further relief was spotting two foreign couples browsing the market. Like me earlier, they were being closely eyed by the Vietnamese.

 

 While most of the merchants patiently watched shoppers browse their goods, hoping for a sale, the food venders seemed to remain busy with a steady flow of customers. Their meals were priced lower than those of the local eateries and restaurants.

Tran Hua Street night market
I ordered a second beer then, more out of curiosity than hunger, crossed the street to have a closer look. Most prepared river fish, seafood, noodles, eggs, vegetables, or rice, but some sizzled meat in shallow pans: duck, chicken, bat, and an assortment of innards and organs.

 

After two beers and a tasty light snack, I strolled to the far end of the night market then doubled back to return to my hotel. The manager and his family were sitting at dinner when I entered the lobby. They gestured me to join them but I signaled that I had already eaten by patting my belly with both hands then holding them outward in thanks. I didn't know the Vietnamese word for bat.

 

 

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Hillside monestary in Ha Tien
Hillside monestary in Ha Tien
Tran Hua Street food venders
Tran Hua Street food venders
Inbound fishing boat
Inbound fishing boat
Fountain in the park
Fountain in the park
Kite flyer
Kite flyer
Assorted birds
Assorted birds
Tran Hua Street night market
Tran Hua Street night market
Nets going out
Nets going out
Kite flyers
Kite flyers
Kiters
Kiters
Setting up the night market
Setting up the night market
My room
My room
Setting nets in the river
Setting nets in the river
Tran Hua traffic
Tran Hua traffic
Ha Tien
photo by: rotorhead85