Ben Tre Province provides some of the most beautiful scenery in the Mekong delta. The milk coffee colored waters wind their way along small channels lined with water palms, thatch and bamboo houses are nestled in the lush orchards. The famous Vietnamese poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu was born in Ben Tre Province, but until now this fact hasn't spawned touristic exploitation.
How to get there
Ferries from Rach Mieu in My Tho (20 min/24h) arrive some 10 km north of Ben Tre, so you might want to hire a Xe Om to take you to the town center.
There is also a ferry from Vinh Long Province to the north-western part of the island, again you may want to hire some sort of transport to cover the remaining distance to Ben Tre town. There is also bus 8 from ferry pier to Ben Tre. It seems frequent, costs about 25,000 Dong for 2h trip. You will need a taxi (moto ~ 20,000 Dong for 10min ride). Pay attention when arriving in Ben Tre as the bus goes to outer bus station. Best seems to stop at the roundabout after the two big bridge and Mat Kinh Dien Bien Phu optic shop and take a taxi (moto ~ 15-20k Dong) to the town center.
Direct (mini-)bus services from Ho Chi Minh City are to be found at Cholon and Mien Tay bus station. A new bridge, constructed in 2009, now connects the city to My Tho so the bus ride is direct, without a ferry. On arrival at the bus station in Ben Tre, a very welcoming man with good English will try to get you to his travelling guide rated guest house by showing books and stuff. In fact, the ride there takes you back where your bus came from, halfway to My Tho, about 10km from Ben Tre. Make sure to get from Ben Tre bus station into the town of Ben Tre, not elsewhere.
How to get around
The town is stretched along the river, so a bicycle or a motorbike seem to be the best way, especially if you are planning to take it to the orchards on the far side of the river.
What to see
There are no real sights in their own right, but you could have a look at the unspoiled market or visit the rice wine factory on the south bank, 0.5 km west from the old bridge. You can also visit the inevitable coconut candy factory here. It's a must if you haven't been to one yet, since in this "factory" basically everything is done by hand.
What to do
Trung Tam Dieu / Ben Tre tour operation center (closed during lunch) has some tours by boat (US$ 25/30 for 1/2 persons 3-4h), by bike or cart and homestay addresses. It also gives some information on the city. Another option is to speak to one of the man standing around the tourist oriented boat pier (best change is between 2PM and 5PM), which is located on the area west of the new bridge. Some offer nice boat tours combined with biking on one of the islands for around 30USD.
Explore the Delta. boat trips are one of the nicest ways to negotiate the network of channels, but the land in between the waters is just as fascinating. It's fun to follow some of the small trails along the channels, crossing sidearms on very basic bridges and walking by fruit and coconut orchards.
Coconut candy factory. There are apparently four factories across town. The shop selling the coconut candy (keo dua) is in the front and the factory is in the back. The visit of the factory where you see the women making the handmade candy is free. 212B Dai Lo Dong Khoi (there is a second shop across the street). Enjoy!
Ben Tre green tourist (Bao Duyen Tourist), 18D, An Thuan A, My Thanh An, TP Ben Tre, Ben Tre, Viet Nam (Email: email@example.com), ☎ 0753817366 - 01267593979.
There is a big coopmart with low Air conditioning (food, department store, game center) near 'Cong Vien Dong Khoi' park and north of lake/pond
Where to eat
The usual food stalls are found around the market. Be warned that one of the favourite soups in the Delta, Hu Tieu, contains boiled intestines and liver, so choose wisely. There is also a floating restaurant near the old bridge. Sweet bakery for breakfast? Go to the huge CoopMart (8-22) just behind street Hai Ba Trung. It's very good here and budget.
Nam Song, Phan Ngoc Tong. Attention extra 2,000 Dong if you use the wet tissu. I never saw a single local eating here, and we were never able to get food here. prices from 25k (com ga) to 250k (tom xao).
Where to drink
Coldest beer in Ben Tre? Go to the Oasis. Bar closes at 9.30pm.
Club 007: Most popular nightclub in town. Extremely loud techno(earplugs recommended). Only busy on weekends. Mostly 18-30 year old crowd with some slightly older, wealthy locals in the VIP area.
AP 1 - Xa Son Dong - QL60 - TP Ben Tre Ph: 075 3833 369
Where to stay
Ham Luong Hotel, 200 Nguyen Van Tu, 5th Ward, ☎ (+84-75)818 595. One of the best hotels in Ben Tre and fancy for a three star hotel with outside swimming pool, steam bath and sauna. Buffet breakfast is a mix between asian and western food. All rooms have cable internet, TV with English channels and so on. Next to Ben Tre tourist. Rooms between 17 - 39 dollars.
Khach San Phuong Hoang, 28, Hai Ba Trung, Phuong 2, TP. Ben Tre (town center, north of ho truc giang lake/pond), ☎ 07220.127.116.11. Cold shower (some hot ?), Fan or Air condition, Free wifi, Limited english-speaking staff between 120-180,000 Dong for a single room.
Khach San Dong Khoi / Dong Khoi Hotel, 16, Hai Ba Trung, Phuong 2, TP. Ben Tre (town center, north of ho truc giang lake/pond), ☎ 075.3822501 - 075.3822632 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 075.3822240). hot water except cheapest rooms, free wifi, restaurant, karaoke, massage single 150-240k, strangely prices dropped if checkin after 4pm 100-120k.
Nha Nghi 99, 73, Phan Ngoc Tong, Phuong 2, TP. Ben Tre (town center, street south of ho truc giang lake/pond), ☎ 075.3831234, 075.3811233. Air condition, no wifi, limited english-speaking staff. single 150k Dong.
Oasis hotel, 151 My Thanh An, Ben Tre 1234, Vietnam (across river), ☎ 0752467799. kiwi and vietnamese owners, free wifi, swimming-pool, english, viet, khmer spoken. cold beer, local knowlebge. number one on trip advisor
Que Huong, 38 Hai Ba Trung (Red house in front of the town's chilly lake.), ☎ 075 3835 888. All rooms with hot shower and fresh towel, Fan 100k-120k, A/C 160k-180k. Good service, limited English and friendly.
Hai Long Hotel, 500 A2, KP2, Tan Phu, Ben Tre City, Ben Tre, Viet Nam ((Email: email@example.com)(English speaking : 0918.516.626 )), ☎ 0753.8511236 - 0753.829505.
Two star hotel 100 - 300k Dong.
How to get out
Either go to the outer bus station, but you can get minibus to My Tho or Ho Chi Minh City inside town
to Ho Chi Minh City: 70k Dong, on tran quoc tuan street north of the lake/pond.
to My Tho: ~20k, on dong khoi street, bus stop near school
The cargo boats also will take you to places like Tra Vinh, Can Tho or Vinh Long. The boats leave between 8h30 and 9h every day. It takes a very long time, but it's a adventurous and cheap option (expect to pay between 60.000VND and 120.000VND each person). They leave from the area east of the new bridge. Boats are light blue.
Ba Tri: 40 minute scooter ride east of Ben Tre
More information at: http://www.jahancruises.com/River-Blogs/whattodoinbentre