Mekong - Ha Tien travel guide - Rusty Compass

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Mekong - Ha Tien
travel guide

Mekong - Ha Tien Introduction

| 25 Apr 2018
Last updated 25 Apr 2018

Ha Tien's remotenss at the far southwestern border of Vietnam with Cambodia has, until recently, kept it off most travel itineraries.

Things are changing fast as this little stretch of the Gulf of Thailand gets plugged into the travel network. The opening of a border crossing to Cambodia in 2008 has connected Ha Tien with Cambodia's quaint southern coastal towns of Kep and Kampot. The commencement of daily ferry services between Phu Quoc Island and Ha Tien has created further interest in this new cross border itinerary to Cambodia's southern coast.

Ha Tien's new lease of tourism life looks likely to grow. And this surprisingly agreeable small town is more than just a convenient transit point. It's easy to fill a day here visiting Ha Tien's pleasant if imperfect Mui Nai beach and some interesting historical sights.

Ha Tien may seem a modest outpost but it's played its part in some important events in Vietnamese history. Nguyen Anh, the man who took went on to found Vietnam's last imperial dynasty, the Nguyen Dynasty, (he became Emperor Gia Long), took shelter here in the late 18th century before he commenced his conquest for control of the country. It was also here that he made a fateful deal with French missionary, Pigneau de Behaine, that gave the French a lever into his future dynasty. A journey that ended in Hue at the beginning of the 19th century, started in Ha Tien decades earlier.

In the late 1970s, Khmer Rouge attacks on Vietnamese civilians around Ha Tien provoked the Vietnamese government to invade Cambodia and end Pol Pot's reign of terror. A small monument marks the spot where Khmer Rouge troops murdered 130 Vietnamese civilians.



Ha Tien - getting there and away

The easiest way to get to Ha Tien is either by daily boat from Phu Quoc Island, or the short road journey across the border from Kep in Cambodia.

The overland journey from Saigon is more of a struggle. Buses operate to Ha Tien from major centres like Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh but most require you transit through Rach Gia, the provincial capital. It's a long haul from Saigon (10 hours). And even Can Tho, the largest major Mekong Delta city, is 5 hours away by bus.

Travelling to / from Cambodia

Travellers to Cambodia can obtain a visa at the Xa Xia border station. You'll need a passport photo and $30US.

Depending on nationality, many travellers from Cambodia to Vietnam will need to have arranged their visa in advance of arrival at the border. Check the rules applying to your passport before trying to enter Vietnam.

The border crossing from Ha Tien to Kep is relatively straightforward. Make sure you leave plenty of time since you'll likely need to hustle your way to arrange transport to Kep. You can get a taxi from Ha Tien to the border for around US$6.

At the border you'll be met by fairly insistent motorcycle taxi drivers who enjoy remarkable access to both sides of the border post. They'll try and offer porter services through the border and lock you in for the journey to Kep for around US$10 per bike. Unless you're on a tight budget, a car will be a better option. So you'll need to hold on to your luggage.

When you get through the 20 - 30 minute (normally) customs and immigration process, you can pick up a car at the other side. They cost of a ride to Kep is around US$30.
Try and arrive early in the day as your options and your bargaining position will be much diminished at the end of the day.

Ha Tien getting around

Getting around Ha Tien's sights is easy. Bicycle is probably the most enjoyable way to get around. Travelling on the back of a motorcycle taxi can be fun as well.

If you'd prefer to travel by car, taxis can be a good option. You might like to negotiate a rate for your itinerary in advance. Your hotel should be able to organise a car and driver and a guide as well.

Ha Tien - health and safety

Crime against travellers is rare in Ha Tien. Roads are also relatively uncongested and flat making it well suited to cycling.

Rach Gia Hospital is around 2 hours away and is the best in the province. Ha Tien has a smaller basic hospital. If possible, hospital services in Ho Chi Minh City are far better.

Kiên Giang General Hospital   
46 Le Loi St,
Rach Gia
0773. 867 241

Ha Tien Hospital
C4 Mac Cuu, Dong Ho, Hà Tiên

Ha Tien - ATMs, WIFI and internet

Free wifi is widely available in Ha Tien hotels as well as some of the local cafes. There are also a number of ATMs in town.

We recommend carrying some additional cash to outlying provinces in the event that ATMs are not functioning. Some hotels accept credit cards. 3G and 4G services work well throughout Ha Tien. You can purchase SIM cards around town too.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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