Last update: 09:00 | 31/12/2017
VietNamNet Bridge – Bac Lieu is a Mekong Delta province that has the normal tropical attractions and more, including a bird sanctuary, a monument to ostentatious living, Khmer culture, boat trips, popular places of worship, orchards and flower gardens. Minh Thu and Nhu Binh report.
Twitter: Fledglings at the Bac Lieu Birds Reserve which is home to more than 40 bird species. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Hai
Nguyen Long from HCM City thought one day would be enough to explore the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu, but when he arrived, he realised he was wrong.
So he booked into a hotel and decided to experience the unique cuisine, beautiful landscapes and the culture of the province.
“I had believed that the Mansion of the Bac Lieu ’Playboy’ was the only place to visit and that the sea in the province was muddied by rivers,” said Long. “But the facts proved that I was wrong.”
Bac Lieu is located to the south of the Mekong’s main outflow. The province shares borders with Hau Giang in the north, Soc Trang in the northeast, Kien Giang in the northwest -- and Ca Mau in the west and southwest. The sea is on the southeast.
Bac Lieu has more than 5,500ha of forests, mostly mangroves, and offers boat tours along canals and rivers, swimming in the sea, tours to learn about the diversified culture of different ethnic groups and extraordinary food with local specialities.
Worship: Pilgrims flock to the festival dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Limitless Compassion. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liem
In the past, Bac Lieu was known for its rich landlords, whose sons extravagantly spent money and time enjoying themselves. They built luxurious homes that tourists still gape at today, even though they are 100 or more years old.
One of the best known buildings in the region is the mansion of "Cong tu Bac Lieu’, who was a famous playboy of his time.
“If you don’t visit the mansion, you haven’t been to Bac Lieu,” said Long.
“Those who visit the province generally like to stop at the mansion, now Bac Lieu Dude Hotel, either for an overnight stay or a quick look. The residence, located at 13 Dien Bien Phu Street, was built in 1919 and designed by a French architect with many materials and furniture imported from France. Many valuable objects are still housed in the building."
It is a two-storey building with spacious bedrooms and splendid halls. The mansion belonged to Tran Trinh Huy (1900-1973).
In 2003 the mansion became a hotel and a tourist site.
Palatial: One of the best-known buildings in the region is the mansion of ’Cong tu Bac Lieu’. VNA/VNS Photo Van Khanh
Tourists also visit the Bird Reserve covering 160ha. It is home to more than 40 bird species. Many endanged species have been born and bred there.
Located at Hiep Thanh Commune, the sanctuary is considered one of the most attractive eco-tourism spots in the Mekong Delta. It was recognised as a Nature Reserve in 1984.
Tourists can also see rich flora and fauna. In August and September, flocks of birds gather at the sanctuary to build nests and breed. The forest comes alive with their songs and trees overflow with hundreds of birds’ nests.
The best time for tourists to visit the Bird Sanctuary is in the early morning, when most birds leave their nests to begin a day of feeding. Alternatively, at sunset the birds can be seen easily flock after flock returning to their nests.
“This is the most spectacular sight at the sanctuary,” said tourist Long. “Photographers wait to capture breathtakingly beautiful birds.”
Heavenly: A flower garden in Vinh Trach Dong Commune. VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Thanh Liem
Long and his friends also spent a day on an ecological tour to longan orchards covering 230ha.
The orchards were planted 200 years ago by the first migrants to wild land along the coast. Their age and unique location lends the fruit a distinctive sweetness.
The gardens sit atop an underground stream. Local people say the water source has kept the trees alive for centuries despite encroaching saltwater.
Locals dry the fruit and also brew the fresh fruit into wine. Producing dried fruit and wine to sell for tourists and export has become a good job for many.
Other cultural and religious destinations are worth a visit, such as Phuoc Duc Pagoda built in the 18th century by Chinese immigrants, Xiem Can Pagoda built in the 19th century by the ethnic Khmer people inspired by Angkor architecture.
There is also the ancient Vinh Hung Temple which houses many items belonging to Oc Eo Culture (from the first to seventh centuries), the conical hat-shaped Cao Van Lau Theatre and Nha Mat ecotourism and cultural site with 11m-high statue of the Bodhisattva of Mercy.
In recent years, tourists can visit a wind farm with hundreds of turbines. The long bridge leading to the wind turbines in the sea is an ideal place to enjoy spectacular views and brisk wind.
The provincial People’s Committee and related agencies have strived to make tourism a key economic sector.
Before 2016, Bac Lieu welcomed 600,000-650,000 tourists a year, according to Thai Quoc Luu, vice director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. But when authorities began to promote the attractions, numbers increased rapidly.
“We plan to attract 1.4 million tourists to the province this year,” he said.
“There are now about 50 hotels and guest houses with a total of 1,200 rooms. We are calling for investment to upgrade the infrastructure and services to meet increasing demand.”
“We also focus on preserving traditional performing arts, such as don ca tai tu (southern music and songs), and Khmer ethnic drama and dance.”
Land, sea: Nha Mat offers tourists a place to enjoy the view of sea and the breeze. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Phan
Duong Minh Binh, director of CBT Travel Company, said Bac Lieu tourism potential and advantages had not been exploited effectively.
“There are various types of tourism products in Bac Lieu, such as eco-tourism, religious tourism (visiting temples and pagodas), culinary trips and cultural tourism (exploring the culture of different ethnic groups),” said Binh.
Binh said he would carry out a project to link destinations in Bac Lieu to Soc Trang and Ca Mau through Quan Lo -- Phung Hiep National Road. He spent many months surveying the area by motorbike.
“This is a very special route which nature favours with beautiful sights,” he said. “Local people preserve unique cultural activities, religious practices and traditional handicrafts. Their culture represent a southern identity that tourists are eager to discover.”
“As I know from field trips, people living along the route are aware of protecting the environment, however, they need to be given more knowledge to work in the tourism industry professionally.”