By Hoàng Linh
Situated on the border of Việt Nam and Cambodia, An Giang is most famous for Châu Đốc City, which is home to one of the busiest markets in the country. Not many travellers have set foot in Chợ Mới District, 50km from Châu Đốc, though the district is well worth discovering.
Take National Highway 91 from the city, leaving the beautiful Tịnh Biên and Tri Tôn Districts behind after exploring their sacred temples and beautiful lakes.
Simple lifestyle and tasty cuisine
Visitors are recommended to visit Ông Chưởng Island where they can see the lifestyle of a river region. First and foremost, remember to ask locals how to get there rather than tracking it on the map.
Most Chợ Mới locals make a living from fishing and its starting to attract tourists who want to experience local life. A trip to the Mekong Delta is not complete without a trip on the ghe (a narrow boat) along the river. Stilts houses stand tall by the river to withstand the regular floods. Ferries carry people, vehicles and food. Small floating markets here can make you forget dry land.
On a floating boat, you can ask a local family to make you lẩu mắm (salted fish hotpot) and thịt chuột nướng (grilled mice). Lẩu mắm is made from salted fish (mud carp and snakeskin gourami fish) cooked with coconut water or broth. A lot of things are added, i.e. shrimp, squid, and special greens and herbs (bitter veggies, bean sprout, eggplant, lemongrass, etc…).
People in the region have the sweetest cuisine across the country. So if you are on a diet or have special dietary needs, be careful.
Mice here damage coconut trees and rice fields, so locals in return enjoy eating them. There are many ways to cook mice: grilling, steaming, deep frying or making a curry. I love the grilled one best. For many people, it’s scary to eat this small animal. But if you dare, it’s a big deal!
Chợ Mới District is famous for its religious sites. Tây An Pagoda, where the Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương religion, originally practiced by the mystic Đoàn Minh Huyên (1807–1856), is an important site. The walls are nicely decorated with thousands of porcelain pieces, creating a beautiful effect in the sun. Local people often come to wish for happiness and peacefulness while tourists take pictures.
Chợ Mới District is known as the centre of Christianity in the South. You can find the earliest Christian church in old Cochinchina. It was designed and built in a French style. Most of the original construction materials were brought from France.
After a day of viewing life and religious sites in Chợ Mới, it's hard to leave without discovering more of the hidden beauty of this region. VNS