|Tranquil setting: A bridge leads to the Memorial House for late President Ton Duc Thang. — VNS Photos Trong Trung
|Imposing monument: The Memorial House for late President Ton Duc Thang on Ong Ho Islet.
|Home: Uncle Ton's house on stilts, built by his father Ton Van De in 1887. It is 12m wide, 13m long and covers 156sq m.
An islet in the southern province of An Giang has beautiful landscape. It also was home to famous revolutionary Ton Duc Thang. Trong Trung
and Trung Hieu
Looking out from the top of a tall building in the centre of Long Xuyen City, we can see Ong Ho Islet dissecting the poetic and the beautiful Hau Giang River.
Ong Ho Islet, literally meaning Mr Tiger, covers an area of about 15sq.km. It is more than 9km long and 3km wide in parts, and home to six hamlets.
Visitors can reach the islet over charming wooden bridges or newer, modern structures that stretch out under the tree canopy and across the sparkling blue water, passing the floating cages that local people use to raise fish.
From daybreak, fishing boats skim up and down the river, creating a joyous scene, and at night, the lights from the boats shimmer on the surface.
The people of An Giang are very proud about the land which is home to "a valiant sailor on the Black Sea" and a staunch communist and revolutionist: Ton Duc Thang, the second president of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, after Ho Chi Minh.
His stilt-house is located in My Hoa Hung and covers 156sq.m, with similar features to many other rural houses in Southern Viet Nam.
On July 17 this year, at a Memorial Site built in honour of late President Ton Duc Thang on the islet, a ceremony was held to announce the Prime Minister's decision to list the memorial as a Special National Historical Site.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Truong Tan Sang said: "The life and cause of President Ton Duc Thang was a bright example of a communist who passed severe challenges in the [French] imperialist prison and the violence of war, contributing his whole life to national liberation and happiness for the people."
An Giang Province People's Committee chairman Vuong Binh Thanh said the Memorial Site was one of the 23 "special national-level relics" that had been recognised by the Government.
"Government ministries and sectors as well as An Giang Province's authorities and people have been preserving the historical values of the memorial site following the Cultural Heritage Law.
"We are planning to build new constructions that are in keeping with the stature and significance of the site, and turn it into a historical and cultural park."
Ton Duc Thang was born on August 20, 1888.
Some years later in April 1919, he found himself working in the engine room of a French navy gunship on the Black Sea. The ship was on course to attack the Soviet Union, but mechanic Ton stood up for his Russian communist comrades and started by raising a red (communist) flag.
Today, on the islet, local people have restored the historic and cultural sites related to President Ton's youth, including a temple, a memorial house, a park, and a gallery featuring the life and career of the President. The highlight of the attractions is the aircraft that carried President Ton and other Government leaders from Ha Noi to HCM City to attend the solemn ceremony that marked the day South Viet Nam was liberated in April 1975.
Tourists also hear many legends and myths about this wild area.
A farmer famous for successfully rearing tra catfish, Nguyen Ngoc Liet in My An hamlet, told us one old story.
"This land used to be wild and overgrown. Tigers and panthers from the That Son (Seven Mountains) in the province often came here to hunt preys. Gradually people settled here, and the islet became busy, so the tigers and panthers quietly crossed the river and returned to the mountains.
"However, on one moonlit night, villagers saw a tiger the size of a cow sitting quietly on the dunes overlooking the islet. They tried to chase the tiger away using canes and knives.
"Strangely enough, the tiger did not panic, it leisurely jumped into the water and waded across the river, returning to That Son. The villagers were surprised and asked each other: 'Why didn't the tiger attack us? Was it just visiting its old neighbourhood? If it was, this was not a normal animal, it was the Tiger God.' In honour of the tiger, the villagers built a temple to worship him, and that still stands here today."
The land of An Giang was home to many patriots because it suffered from constant wars and the tempestuous frontier with Cambodia.
Across the river, near the islet, Cho Moi District simmered with the struggles against French domination.
On Ong Ho Islet today, the roads are asphalted and cars can travel between four villages with ease. There is also a community tourism centre and dozens of stilt houses to rent owned by An Giang Travel Company, as well as local people who are willing to accommodate tourists.
"During our visit to Ong Ho, we marvelled at the orchards and fish-rearing cages around the islet, tasted the fragrant sweet fruits and local dishes of the Hau River, and enjoyed folk music. We really enjoyed the flavour of life and the hospitality the Southern Delta had to serve," says Nguyen Dinh Tung, a tourist from Ha Noi. — VNS