Bac Lieu & Around
Few people pay a visit to Bac Lieu, but bird – watchers pass through en route to the remarkable sanctuary near town. There is a few charming but forlorn French colonial buildings lining the waterfront, yet little else of interest.
The grandest of these buildings is the Cong Tu Hotel (0781-395 3304; 13 Ð Dien Bien Phu; r 300,000-500,000d; ), which was built in 1919 as a private mansion with materials imported from France. The family’s oldest son was a notorious playboy (cong tu)whose fabled exploits included burning money to boil an egg in an effort to impress a woman. After squandering the family fortune, the house was sold and turned into a hotel at which travellers can still stay. Alternatively, inexpensive guesthouses line the road into town from Soc Trang (rooms cost around US$10).
Bac Lieu Bird Sanctuary NATURE RESERVE
(0781-383 5991; admission 15,000d; 7.30am-5pm) This bird sanctuary, which is 6km southwest of town, is known for its 50-odd species of bird, consisting of a large population of graceful white herons. Bird populations reach a peak in the rainy season – approximatelyfrom May to October. The birds nest until about January, then fly off in search of greener pastures. There are basically no birds here from February until the rainy season begins again.
The trek is through dense (and often muddy) forest: bring lots of repellent, good shoes, water and binoculars. Pay the admission fee when you reach the entrance; an observation tower is situated within the sanctuary. Travellers can (and should) hire a tour guide here, because you may get lost without one. The guides aren’t supposed to receive money, so tip them discreetly; most guidescannot speak English. The Bac Lieu Tourist office can arrange transport and guides for you (at a mark-up).
Eating & Drinking
Pho Ngheu Thanh Huong VIETNAMESE $
(43 Tran Quynh; mains 25,000-47,000d) When you are likely to be able to buy similar pho (noodle soups) and banh mi (filled baguettes) from a street stall, this fine eatery serves a fairy-lit rooftop from which guests can watch the traffic zoom by.
Kitty CAFE, BAR
(cnr Ð Tran Phu & Ba Trieu; 10am-11pm) This 1st-floor cafe which overlooks one of the many busy roundabouts on Ð Tran Phu is black and white and chrome all over, together with chic chairs and a wall of TV screens. This is a nice destination for Vietnamese coffee and cake, or something a little harder.
Bac Lieu Tourist ( 0781-382 4273; www.baclieutourist.com; 2 Ð Hoang Van Thu; 7-11am & 1-5pm) Helpful tourist office with simple town maps and information about journey to the bird sanctuary.
Post Office (20 Ð Tran Phu).
Getting There & Around
The bus station (Ben Xe Tinh Bac Lieu) is on the main road into town, 1km north of the centre. From here you can catch regular buses to Ho Chi Minh City (130,000d), Soc Trang (65,000d), Ha Tien (130,000d), Ca Mau (30,000d) and Can Tho(65,000d).