If you love coconuts, then Ben Tre is a good place to visit. It’s situated in the Mekong delta and about an hour or so away by car -> ferry -> car from Tra Vinh (the city I’m based in). Ferries are located in My Tho and Vinh Long if you are looking to travel to Ben Tre.
There’s not a ton of tourist attractions in Ben Tre, but that’s part of the allure of Ben Tre.
Ben Tre is famous for its coconuts and the coconut candies that it produces. The most delicious coconuts that I’ve ever tasted in my life are from Ben Tre. They’re called dừa dứa which directly translates into pineapple coconut. Which just means that they’re really fragrant coconuts. I can’t really describe the taste but the coconut water in these coconuts are just more coconut-y, in the best possible way of course.
I actually used to really dislike the taste of coconut but over the years, it’s become one of my favorite flavors. One of those foods you have to learn to love I suppose. When I was in the U.S. I totally bought into the coconut water craze. After a sweaty and tiring dance class, I would sometimes splurge for coconut water for hydration. Not sure if it actually helped, or if I just believed all the marketing around coconut water, but long story short, it’s delicious.
In the U.S., a small bottle of coconut water runs about $2, but in Vietnam, a whole coconut is about $0.60. Which explains why coconut is incorporated in a lot of food. While Vietnam doesn’t really use coconut in main dishes like people in Thailand will, you’ll find a lot of it in it’s desserts and candy. One of the favorite things I’ve had in Vietnam is coconut shavings over young rice. And my favorite street-side waffle place even puts coconut in their waffle mix recipe.
While in Ben Tre, you can:
- Rent a bike or motorbike: I didn’t do this since I went with a group from the University I teach for, but I suggest doing this in any place you visit in Vietnam, especially in the Mekong. The Mekong Delta is beautiful and it’s nice to get away from the main stretches to do some exploring. People are also very friendly and welcome, so don’t fret if you get a little lost. Locals normally are genuinely willing to help.
- Hire a boat: Hire a boat to explore the delta and to take you to one of the surrounding islands.
- Visit a coconut candy factory: See where they make coconut candy and buy some for yourself or as gifts. You’ll be able to see how they make the coconut candy, which is mostly done by hand.
- Paddling in the canals: Rent a little canoe/boat to take you into one of the fruit and coconut tree-lined canals.
When I went to Ben Tre, I went with the university I worked for so we did a typical touristy trip that included a tourist guide. This meant most of the time I didn’t know what was going on and just let the guide take us around. Depending on your comfort level, you could hire a guide but it’d be easy to explore on your own as well. Either way, it was a nice trip to a part of Vietnam I hadn’t been to before. Plus, the coconut was delicious there.