Knowing that the next country we were planning to visit was Cambodia, we decided to look at various ways to get there. Our original plan was to get a boat from Phu Quoc to Kep, Cambodia. However we soon realised that it was not possible to enter Cambodia by sea, and instead decided to do so by land. That meant that we had to take the ferry back to Ha Tien in Vietnam to then cross the land border into Cambodia. Originally, we were going to try and do all this in a day. However, we decided to see what Ha Tien has to offer.
Less Westerners means less English so buy a phrase book!
Ha Tien is a lot smaller than the places we had already seen. The locals commented, stared and took pictures of us, so be prepared to feel like a celebrity! Our guess is they don’t get a lot of tourism in Ha Tien and as a result, rarely have to speak English. I advise those of you looking to visit Ha Tien to invest in an app or a book of the Vietnamese language. Learning simple phrases and words like ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ really go a long way and puts a smile on the locals faces! The town itself seemed a lot less developed than other places but it did have a lot of construction going on. Hopefully, they are trying to build the town up a bit, as it has potential to be a great place to stop off on your way to Cambodia.
When there’s not much to do, explore!
There isn’t that much to do in Ha Tien, unless you don’t mind riding or being a passenger on a scooter. If you enjoy scooters then there’s a beach, some caves, pagodas and other memorials around the outskirts of Ha Tien. However, if you’re like us, and don’t really want to go on a scooter then there are a few beautiful temples and pagodas that are in walking distance.
When our friends went to explore the area on scooters, we decided to explore by foot. After a quick scan of maps.me we noticed a few temples and points of interests located on the map and decided to have a look. We stumbled upon Chua Phat Da, a beautiful temple where we could hear the chants of Monks praying from inside. As we were admiring the view from outside a lovely Monk motioned for us to follow him and invited us inside. Keeping silent, he guided around the beautiful architecture and showed us the various temples and pagodas around their monastery. That was one of the most surrealist moments of our life and ended up being completely unplanned, yet a massive highlight of our short trip to Vietnam.
As with most Vietnamese places, the market was really impressive. As a must visit for Ha Tien, it has many different stalls including fresh food, adventurous snacks and clothing. After a bit of research on places to go in Ha Tien, we read about a bar/cafe called Oasis. It is the go to place for tourists that need any guidance and advice whilst travelling. Oasis is owned by an Englishman and his Vietnamese wife, however when we went, the owner was away and his lovely friend was running the place. The food there is delicious, but mostly Western. We were missing home and ordered a BLT and each had a bottle of Cider! The bacon is imported from the UK, as well as using Hellmans mayonnaise, so we were very impressed! It is a great place to hang out if you are missing some home comforts. Oasis are great at putting you in touch with the right people and we were so grateful for them for helping our friends get motorbike drivers for a day and for putting us in touch with a fantastic Vietnamese lady who took us on a crazy minibus ride to Cambodia (that’s a story for another day!).
Ha Tien isn’t a must see place in Vietnam, nor is it popular. However, in our opinion it is a very real representation of what Vietnam was before it was taken over by Western food chains, big chain hotels and Seven Elevens. We are really glad we got to spend a few days there and explore the less touristic part of Vietnam. Walking through small neighbourhoods, meeting extremely friendly locals and visiting beautiful temples and Pagodas gave us a real authentic feel to life in Vietnam and was a lovely way to end our first trip there.