An island city, Bên Tre is the capital of the Bên Tre Province in Southern Vietnam. Interestingly, the capital is located on a triangular island on the Hàm Luông River in the Mekong Delta. Locals refer to the piece of land as Bao Island. Acting as the head of the provincial government agencies, Bên Tre’s unique location has also helped create a small tourist industry in the city.
Though it is still developing, tourism in Bên Tre is fueled by wartime history, nature, and lucrative productions of various goods. Visitors who are in the province should take some time to explore its dynamic capital.
Quiet Capital in the Mekong Delta
Situated on the Hàm Luông River and bordered by the Mekong River, the two bodies of water are what make the city an island. For convenience, Bên Tre is connected to the mainland and neighboring provinces by the Rach Miêu Bridge. The city’s riverfront area boasts the majority of tourist attractions, as well as hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the city on their own or they can join a local tour. Within the province, Bên Tre City is located inland from the coast and in the northern area. Bên Tre is the largest urban area in the province, but overall its small size still ensures that there is a tight-knit local community.
In regard to Ben Tre’s location within Southern Vietnam, the city is about 87 km (54 mi ) from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Travelers will have to drive for 2 hours to reach Bên Tre from Saigon. To make the journey, tourists can either hire a taxi or take a public bus.
The most notable historical events from Bên Tre are all from the 19th and 20th centuries. Beginning in 1867, the French arrived to occupy the city. Not only was the area beautiful, but its location on the Hàm Luông River and proximity to the Mekong River made Bên Tre a strategic point for transporting goods, supplies, and people.
However, the locals were strongly against French control and this led to frequent uprisings. With support from the Vietnam Revolutionary Force, also called the Vietminh, Bên Tre was freed from the French after a battle at Dien Bien Phu. Under guidance from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s revolutionary leader, Bên Tre became fully independent.
Conflict arose in Bên Tre again during the Vietnam War. A part of the Tet Offensive, the city came under the attack of the Vietcong, who was a communist revolutionary group. At the time of the battle, Bên Tre was actually the capital of the Kien Hoa Province, which is the exact same as the Bên Tre Province, just under a different name.
On February 5th, 1968, the Vietcong were defeated by US and South Vietnamese forces. The battle nearly wiped Bên Tre off the map as much of the city was completely destroyed. In the subsequent years, Bên Tre was rebuilt and re-established. The province then changed names from Kien Hoa to Bên Tre.
One fact that is not very well-known is that a general from the Battle of Bên Tre who played a significant part was actually a woman named Madame Nguyen Thi Dinh. Dinh helped secure victory and eventually she was named as the first female general of the Vietnam People’s Army. Today, the Dong Khoi Monument in Bên Tre City memorializes the battle and honors General Dinh.
- There are 8 wards and 6 communes in Bên Tre City.
- Bên Tre covers an area of 65.75 sq km (25.39 sq mi).
- Notable people from Bên Tre are Chân Không, a Buddhist nun, and Khang Nguyen, a financier that studied at Princeton.
Bên Tre City is a lively destination that has a lot for visitors to see and do. A historical city that was rebuilt after the war, visitors often head to Bên Tre to learn more about some of Vietnam’s darkest days. Although, not everything is gloomy in Bên Tre. Nature has come back and there are beautiful canals and gardens too.
The main activities in Bên Tre that visitors love are Côn Phung, the Vien Minh Pagoda, Nguyen Thi Dinh Memorial, and the Bên Tre Night Market.
An island on the Mekong River, Côn Phung or Châu Thành is a beautiful garden with lush greens and picturesque canals. Visitors to the island can tour the gardens and small gazebos or take a boat out on the water. Extremely photogenic, many tourists in Bên Tre make a beeline for Côn Phung so that they can get amazing photos of their trip.
Bên Tre Night Market
One of the biggest attractions in Bên Tre City is the Night Market. Held every day, the market sells anything and everything. Visitors can peruse the stalls to find all types of handmade goods like clothing and baskets or head to the culinary section to shop the fresh fruits and vegetables.
Bên Tre is famous for its coconuts and visitors can purchase as many as they want at the night market. Locals are very friendly towards foreigners and the atmosphere is upbeat. For the complete experience, visitors plan to have dinner at one of the Night Market’s many food stalls.
Nguyen Thi Dinh Memorial
Dedicated to Ben Tre’s fierce female general, Nguyen Thi Dinh, this memorial was erected after the Vietnam War when the city was being rebuilt. At the memorial site are gardens, a small pagoda, and a pond. Honoring General Dinh who fought for the Bên Tre Province, the memorial is also designed to educate people about the province’s history with revolutionary leaders.
Vien Minh Pagoda
The Vien Minh Pagoda is one of many Buddhist temples in Bên Tre. However, this pagoda has become a tourist destination because of its yellow gates and ornate decorations. Tourists are welcome to visit the pagoda where they can learn more about the religion and culture of Bên Tre. The pagoda is open every day, though it does close for lunch.
Ben Tre’s riverfront area is not only a hotspot for activities but also hotels. Located both in the city and on its outskirts, resorts, boutique hotels, and homestays are all options for accommodation in Bên Tre. Travelers will find that the best rooms are at the Bên Tre Riverside Resort, Diamond Stars Bên Tre Hotel, Mekong Home, and the Forever Green Resort.
Bên Tre Riverside Resort – Sticking out from the landscape with its bright white façade, the Bên Tre Riverside Resort has excellent views of the Hàm Luông River. The property is gorgeous and boasts an on-site restaurant, outdoor pool, and free parking. Guest rooms have a seating area and a private bathroom.
Additionally, the hotel has a 24-hour front desk, gift shop, car hire, and bike rentals. For convenience, the hotel also offers a complimentary shuttle to the Bên Tre Night Market.
Diamond Stars Bên Tre Hotel – Featuring rooms with city and river views, Diamond Stars Bên Tre Hotel has clean facilities and great amenities. Enjoy the hot tub, multiple swimming pools, bar, fitness center, and free Wi-Fi. Rooms range from the Presidential Suite to Deluxe Kings and Signature Twins. There are also three on-site restaurants.
Forever Green Resort – Receiving top reviews, the Forever Green Resort is a family-friendly hotel, boasting a kids’ club and playground. Adults will be entertained by the on-site pool, bar, lounge, and billiards table. All of the rooms at the resort have AC, a private bathroom, and fresh linens. Breakfast is available and the front desk can assist with booking tours and transportation.
Mekong Home – Further from city center, Mekong Home, located further down the Hàm Luông River, is a family-owned and operated homestay. Guests stay in bungalows with AC, a balcony, and a private bathroom with solar heating. The in-house restaurant uses garden vegetables. The homestay provides free bicycle rentals, a community kitchen Wi-Fi, and parking.
Bên Tre may not be recognized as the best place to eat in Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean that it is lacking in options. International cuisines haven’t really taken off in Bên Tre, unless you’re going for pizza. Instead, the restaurants excel at serving local dishes that are packed with flavor. The top-rated restaurants are Nam Son, Thuy Pizza, the Floating Restaurant, and Food Stalls.
Food Stalls – Around the city on streets and in markets, the most affordable places to eat (and sometimes the most delicious) are food stalls. Normally, each stall will specialize in one or a few dishes like noodles or meat. Cooked fresh and using the best ingredients, the food stalls in Bên Tre can’t be missed. Visitors can ask their hotel for recommendations.
The Floating Restaurant – On the river, the dragon boat that visitors often see floating by is actually a restaurant. Called the Bên Tre Floating Restaurant, this establishment has 3 floors and takes visitors on a cruise while they enjoy their meals. The menu offers traditional Vietnamese dishes like clay pots filled with seafood and meat. While more expensive, the experience is worth it.
Nam Son – Located in the center of Bên Tre is Nam Son, a restaurant that has become famous for one dish — grilled chicken. People have fallen in love with how this restaurant cooks its chicken and visitors can choose to add a side of rice or vegetables too. Locals frequent this place, but because of the good words, it has become a spot for foreigners too.
Thuy Pizza – The friendly owner has kept this place afloat as it has become the go-to pizza spot for locals and foreigners. Serving a variety of everyone’s favorite Italian dishes, Thuy Pizza is pretty good for being a small-town establishment. Guests can choose to dine in or take out their cheesy slices.
Starting in 2009, the city began hosting a Coconut Festival honoring Bên Tre’s traditions, history, ecosystem, and craftiness. During the festival, performances tell the history of the province and explain how coconuts are used. The festival is held in mid-November during the dry season. Bên Tre can get fairly busy during the festival, which draws crowds of up to 20,000.
Fairly sizeable, it isn’t always ways to walk everywhere in Bên Tre. Visitors will tend to walk around specific parts of the city before seeking alternative modes of transportation. Walkable areas include the waterfront, but if you want to go to the Night Market, it might be best to hop on a bike or take a cab.
Motorbike rentals are common, but visitors may want to check with their accommodations first because many hotels provide free bicycle rentals to their guests. The hotel front desk is also a great resource for travelers as they may provide other types of complimentary transportation or they can help you call a cab.
The mild climate in Bên Tre makes it a destination that people can visit year-round. However, travelers still tend to visit the area during the dry season, which starts in late November and goes until early May. Without monsoons, the temperatures are lower and the humidity isn’t as high.
For many travelers, this is ideal because they wonder be hindered by rainstorms and high temperatures. The dry season is also when most of the festivals occur in Bên Tre, which brings in a flood of tourism to the city.
As a city rife with solemn history, Bên Tre has emerged to become a fun and interesting destination for tourists in Vietnam. Showcasing that there’s much more to the Mekong Delta than the coast, Bên Tre City is a spot that every traveler in Vietnam should have on their bucket list.
Teaching others about the past while also leading the future, Bên Tre is on its way to becoming a famous destination in South Vietnam.
Activities near Ben Tre City
- Thoi Son Island (17.5km)
- Bien Hoa (118 km)
- HCMC (86 km)
- Can Tho (140 km)
- Long Xuyen (146 km)
- My Tho (17km)
- Rach Gia (196 km)
- Thu Dau Mot (106km)
- Vung Tau (168 km)