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Introducing Bac Lieu

Few people stop in Bac Lieu but birdwatchers may find themselves passing through en route to the excellent sanctuary near town. The town has a few elegant but forlorn French colonial buildings lining the waterfront, but little else of interest.

Of these, the grandest is Cong Tu Hotel, 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 converted into a hotel. You can still stay here but it’s in need of a renovation. Alternatively, there are inexpensive guesthouses lining the road into town from Soc Trang (rooms cost around US$10).

Farming is a difficult occupation in this region because of saltwater intrusion, and the province is better known for its healthy longan orchards. The enterprising locals also eke out a living from fishing, oyster collection and shrimp farming, as well as salt production, obtained by evaporating saltwater ponds that form immense salt flats.