Located on the coast in the southern portion of the Mekong Delta Region, Soc Trang Province is a safe haven where various cultures have come together to live in harmony. Well-known for its large population of Khmer Krom, Soc Trang is a unique place where ancient and modern-day Vietnamese culture is showcased through the local lifestyle, architecture, festivals, cuisine, and pagodas.
Tourism in Soc Trang (Sóc Trăng) Province is rather limited as it’s often overlooked as a destination. However, life in the Mekong persists and Soc Trang is renowned for being home to 200 Khmer and Hoa pagodas. In addition to the local ethnic culture, tourists can explore provincial highlights like the luscious fruit gardens and natural beauty.
How to Get to Soc Trang
Bordered by the South China Sea as well as 4 Vietnamese provinces, Bac Lieu, Hau Giang, Tra Vinh, and Vinh Long, Soc Trang Province covers an area of about 3,223 sq km (1,244 sq mi). The terrain throughout the province is flat and open with two large rivers, the Hau (Hậu) and My Thanh (Mỹ Thanh), cutting through the land.
With easy access to freshwater, Soc Trang relies heavily on agricultural industries to support its economy. Commonly grown throughout the area are rice and fruit, meanwhile, on the coast, many locals rely on shrimp farming. Being located in the southern portion of the Mekong Delta, Soc Trang Province is about 221 km (138 mi) away from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).
Without any direct flights from HCMC, driving is the only option, and depending on the mode of transportation, it can take 5-6 hours. Travelers who are interested in catching a flight will have to fly from HCMC to Can Tho (Cần Thơ) City. From Can Tho International Airport, taxis and buses can take tourists south to Soc Trang, which is less than 2 hours away.
Long before Soc Trang became known by its modern-day name, the province was called Nguyet Giang (Nguyệt Giang) during the Nguyen (Nguyễn) Dynasty. The original name was given by emperor Minh Mang (Minh Mạng) and derived from the Khmer name, “Srok Kh’leang”. The closest Vietnamese translation was “Song Trang” (Sông Trǎng) or “Moon River”.
Before the province was named, the province was ruled by various kingdoms, including the Kingdom of Champa that dominated the Mekong Delta Region. Consisting of independent polities, the Champa Kingdom was a direct rival to Cambodia’s Khmer Empire.
With the annexation of the Champa Kingdom by emperor Minh Mang, the influence of the Khmer Empire expanded in the area of what’s now Soc Trang Province. For years, the Khmer Empire staked a claim over the land until the 1650s, when power was slowly transitioned to Vietnamese rulers.
Throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, Soc Trang would be affected by various events including the French Occupation of Vietnam. As boundaries and names were changed, the province was created from older districts. By 1952, 5 districts had been combined to become one jurisdiction and it was named Soc Trang.
Unlike some areas in the Mekong Delta River Region that are reminiscent of Vietnam’s French Occupation, Soc Trang is distinct from other provinces due to there being so much ancient Khmer culture displayed. While Khmer descendants live in the province, the most prominent places for Khmer culture in Soc Trang are the pagodas.
- Soc Trang Province is subdivided into 1 provincial city, 2 district-level towns, 9 districts, 12 townlets, 80 communes, and 17 wards.
- An estimated 1,721,800 people live in Soc Trang Province as of 2021.
- The coastline in Soc Trang stretches for 72 km (45 mi).
The main destination for travelers in Soc Trang Province is Soc Trang City. A small, but busy provincial capital, Soc Trang City is also the largest urban area in the province with a population of 221,430 people. Within the city, there are 10 administrative divisions. National Highway 1 connects Soc Trang City to major Mekong Delta destinations in the north including Can Tho and HCMC.
To the south, the city’s most prominent neighbor is Ca Mau (Cà Mau) City. Of the 200 pagodas that exist in the province, 50 of them are located in or just outside of the provincial capital. These include the Khmer Chua Doi (Khmer Chùa Dơi) and Chua Dat Set (Chùa Ðất Sét), which are some of Soc Trang’s most famous Khmer pagodas.
Culturally, Soc Trang City is one of many places in the province where modern-day Kinh (ethnic Vietnamese) people live in harmony with the Khmer minority. In addition to the pagodas, attractions in Soc Trang City that are noteworthy include the local markets, Soc Trang Provincial Museum, and the waterfront on the river.
Not very popular as a tourist destination, travelers in Soc Trang City won’t have to worry about beating the crowds. Boasting a small tourist industry, Soc Trang City has a few 1 and 2-star hotels for travelers to stay during their visit. Most of the hotel properties are compact, but a few have quality shared facilities like swimming pools and gardens.
The best hotels in Soc Trang City are the Ngoc Lan Hotel, Satraco Royal Hotel, Que Huong Hotel, Khach San My Hang, Thien An Hotel, and the Hotel Xuan Huynh 3. Lacking a large international presence, this Mekong Delta City’s restaurants serve traditional Vietnamese food. Well-known for their flavorful soups, most meals will source their ingredients locally, including fish and produce.
From cafes to sit-down eateries, the best places to dine in Soc Trang City are the Nha hang Vuon Sinh Thai Binh Bia, Lau De Hoang Tham, 3 Rau, and the Com Cari Soc Trang.
Famous Places in Soc Trang Province
With most of the main tourist attractions in or around Soc Trang City, not many travelers will head off the beaten path. However, those who are willing to explore the province’s hidden destinations will find themselves in unique places that highlight some of the best qualities of the Mekong Delta.
Two destinations that are becoming more famous in Soc Trang are Nga Nam (Ngã Năm) Town and Vinh Chau (Vĩnh Châu) Town.
Nga Nam Town
Another small town in the Mekong River Delta, Nga Nam has become famous for its floating market. Created during the construction process of the Phung Hiep Canal, the Nga Nam Floating Market is a busy river port that connects the town to other Mekong destinations like Ca Mau.
Riverfront stores line the walkways as dozens of boats gather on the water to sell and trade their goods. Items commonly sold include fresh produce, seafood, and cooked meals. The floating market is located in Ward 1 of Nga Nam Town. Frequently busy and somewhat chaotic, travelers are encouraged to hire a local guide who can take them on a boat to visit the local vendors.
Vinh Chau Town
Close to the coast, Vinh Chau Town has recently become more popular with tourists due to the opening of the Ho Be Sea Ecotourism Area. Located in the middle of the province’s coast, this protected area is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna.
Stretching for more than 5 km (3 mi), waves along this portion of the sea tend to be mild, which makes the Ho Be Sea Ecotourism Area great for swimming. Parents particularly like the calm waters and shallow depths along the shore because it allows young children to safely splash and play.
The Vinh Hai Commune is a small community that lives alongside the beach and is a place where tourists can find tourist facilities like homestays and restaurants. Other attractions that are close to Vinh Chau Town include the My Thanh Princess Tomb and My Thanh 2 Bridge.
At the forefront of attractions in Soc Trang, there are various pagodas that have become famous for their architecture and Khmer culture. However, pagodas are only one part of the province’s identity and there are additional attractions that tourists might want to check out including the Khmer Museum, Soc Trang Provincial Museum, and the Tan Long Stork Garden.
Chua Dat Set (Clay Pagoda)
Famous for its nearly 2,000 statues of Buddha made from clay and varying in sizes from handheld to large enough for a garden, Chua Dat Set Pagoda is more commonly known as the Clay Pagoda. Boasting a quiet garden, perfect for reflecting, throughout the pagoda, there are small shrines that pay respect to Buddha and various animals.
A smaller, privately owned complex by the Ngo family, the temple is famous for housing 4 sets of large candles inside, two of which have burning continuously since 1970. Due to their sheer size, each candle is expected to be able to burn for 70 years.
Khmer Chua Doi (Bat Pagoda)
Known by the names of Chua Doi, Ma Toc (Mã Tộc), and Mahatup, or more simply, the Bat Pagoda, this cultural destination is home to a large colony of fruit bats. Fiercely guarded by locals, the bats living at the pagoda do not consume the fruit, instead, leaving at night to eat before returning in the morning. Free and wild, visitors can view the bats from a safe distance.
Boasting traditional Khmer architecture, the Bat Pagoda has a large yellow temple that acts as the main place of worship as well as various gates with snakes engraved to honor Naga, the Snake God. Monks living at the pagoda are happy to give tours and they host daily worshiping services. Visitors are free to tour the pagoda grounds but should be mindful not to disturb the bats.
The Kieu Pagoda, or “Bowl Pagoda” is a uniquely constructed building made of broken porcelain bowls in the Soc Trang’s countryside. Covering the walls, floor, and stairs, the structure is extremely vibrant with varying colors popping out. Rather compact, the pagoda has 3 differently sized buildings, with the main building boasting ornate designs and a large shrine.
Offering daily tours, inside, there are a series of 16 pillars depicting important legends in the Khmer culture. Travelers visiting this pagoda may also want to visit the local communities for an authentic experience of the Khmer culture and lifestyle.
Featuring traditional Khmer architecture, the gold exterior of the Kh’leang Pagoda is an impressive sight. First built in 1533, the pagoda was restored in 1963 and 1994. After passing through the main gate, visitors can explore the temples, including a larger one that acts as a library with a few hundred prayer books written in the Pali language. Old Khmer documents are also housed on-site.
In the gardens, there are various statues dedicated to Buddha and there are 3 towers. Sugar palm trees are abundant throughout the gardens as they tower over the quiet pagoda. Additionally, beautiful murals painted around the pagoda depict the story of Buddha from birth to Nirvana.
Across the street from the Kh’leang Pagoda, the Khmer Museum houses artifacts from the Khmer culture. With two main exhibition halls that are both historic, the first was built in 1938 and is known as the Xamacum Assembly House. Housing items like hand tools, religious icons, scriptures, costumes, and musical instruments, visitors interested in Khmer culture should prioritize this museum.
Soc Trang Provincial Museum
Representing the province’s 3 main ethnic groups (Khmer, Kinh, and Hoa) there are more than 1,000 artifacts, documents, and photographs on display at the Soc Trang Provincial Museum. Separated into two floors, exhibits are divided into various phases that represent periods of time during the 20th century. Free to visit and open daily, the museum is located in Ward 6 of Soc Trang City.
Tan Long Stork Garden
A hidden gem in Son Trang, Tan Long Stork Garden is maintained by a local named Huynh Van Muoi. Built 30 years ago as a safe space for Vietnamese white storks, the best way to explore is by canoe as the area is partially flooded. Available to rent, another option on land is a 10-meter ( 33 ft) tall tower that provides visitors with a panoramic view of the garden.
Every pagoda in Soc Trang Province hosts its own festivals throughout the year, including major celebrations for national holidays like Tet (Lunar New Year). However, one of the biggest events in Soc Trang Province is the Thac Con Festival. Typically held in March in the Chau Thanh (Châu Thành) District’s An Trach Village, locals pray for peace and happiness.
During the festival, thousands of fresh coconuts are imported and offered to the Thac Con Shrine. Said to have started from a local tradition more than 100 years ago, the festival is a unique way for visitors to learn more about Khmer culture.
Throughout the year, Soc Trang Province has two seasons: dry and wet. Typical to the Mekong Delta Region, the wet season runs from May until October. With heavy rain, lots of humidity, and high temperatures, this is the least popular time to visit. To avoid the poor weather conditions, tourists should visit Soc Trang from November until April, which is the dry season.
During the dry season, there are few storms to interrupt tourist activities and the temperatures tend to be slightly cooler. As one of Vietnam’s lesser-known destinations, Soc Trang Province is one of the best cultural destinations in the Mekong Delta. From the pagodas to the museums and even daily life in the cities and towns, tourists can engage with some of Vietnam’s oldest traditions.
Activities near Soc Trang Province
- Ben Tre (106km)
- Bien Hoa (253km)
- Can Tho (81km)
- Cao Lanh (134km)
- Ha Tien (242km)
- Long Xuyen (122km)
- My Tho (117km)
- Phu Quoc (306km)
- Rach Gia (146km)
- Sa Dec (103km)
- Thu Dau Mot (242km)
Latest in Soc Trang Province
8 Best Floating Markets in Vietnam
A great way to get a taste of authentic Mekong Delta culture is by visiting one…