Big Buddhas and superb soups deep in the Delta

Big Buddhas and superb soups deep in the Delta

Soc Trang is the capital of Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It's not a big tourist destination, but it has some wonderful Khmer temples in and around the city. Soc Trang is the closest mainland port to Con Dao, so this is a faster trip than the boat from Vung Tau.I was in Soc Trang to get this ferry to Con Dao. I'm also making a point to visit the provincial capitals of Vietnam, so instead of just going straight to the ferry, I stayed in Soc Trang first.My trip to Soc Trang was the end of a tour of the lesser-visited provinces of the Mekong. I started in Ca Mau and then went to Bac Lieu. Like those two cities, Soc Trang doesn't have much written about it, so I headed straight for the central market.There is a central market building, but most of the action spills out to the surrounding streets. Even though it's a relatively small city, it still has the glorious mayhem that you want from a market in Vietnam.There are some remnants of old shophouses in the streets around the market area.There is not much of old Soc Trang left though, so it's a matter of walking down every street to find the last vestiges of the past.I was at a restaurant where they had some old photos of Soc Trang on the wall.Like so many places I've visited in the Mekong Delta this year, I wondered what might have been if they had been able to conserve some old buildings.If you want to know more about Soc Trang, there is the Soc Trang Provincial Museum.Soc Trang has a surprising amount of Khmer temples. Some of the best temples are a few kilometres outside the city centre. I walked to the Mahatup Pagoda temple, also known as the Bat Pagoda.It was the wrong time of day for bats, but it's never the wrong time of day for a rooster to be making a racket.I passed these and other temples on the way to Som Rong Pagoda. It has been described as the pearl of Soc Trang, and after visiting I wouldn't hesitate to upgrade it to the Pearl of the Mekong Delta. Look at this ridiculously beautiful temple scene.Tra Vinh is probably more famous for its Khmer temples, but this one is my favourite in the Mekong so far. I happened to be there at the end of the day when the sun was low on the horizon. The main temple building faces west, so the colours on the building stood out in the afternoon sun.The temple was in the midst of constructing a giant reclining buddha when I was there. The structure was finished but the painters and decorators were still working on it. I think that this will become an iconic temple of the Mekong Delta that will bring more tourists to Soc Trang.The river is affected by the ebbs and flows of the Mekong, so the water height varies throughout the day.I observed in Ha Tien that every provincial city has a dentist named Sai Gon, and the naming convention continues here.Just about every province in Vietnam has a signature dish, and in Soc Trang, there is Bun Nuoc Leo. Not that I knew this at the time. I was scouring Google Maps for a place to eat when I saw this marked on the map.I arrived to find everything that I dream of in a Vietnam street food scene. Little plastic seats, outside and under a tree, serving a soup I’ve never heard of before, by a group of lovely soup ladies who bemused and amused to see this foreigner turn up.

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