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Introducing Hon Chong

Home to photogenic stone grottoes and the nicest stretch of sand on the delta’s mainland, Hon Chong once showed great potential as a beach resort. Now its litter-strewn shoreline sits under a permanent cloud of discharge from a cement factory – and with a giant coal-fired power station on the way, it seems destined to languish in obscurity for some time. Apart from the beach, the main reason to visit is an atmospheric Buddhist cave shrine.

After passing through the scrappy, polluted village, the road rounds a headland and follows Duong Beach (Bai Duong) for 3km. An entrance fee is charged only at the far end of the beach (per person/car 5000/10,000d), where there are food stalls, karaoke bars and pigs and chickens wandering around. From the beach you can see remnants of Father and Son Isle (Hon Phu Tu) several hundred metres offshore. It was said to be shaped like a father embracing his son, but the father was washed away in 2006. Boats can be hired at the shore to row out for a closer look

You need to walk through the market to reach the cave pagoda (Chua Hang), which is set against the base of a stony headland. The entry to the cave containing Hai Son Tu (Sea Mountain Temple) is inside the pagoda. Visitors light incense and offer prayers here before entering the grotto itself, whose entrance is located behind the altar. Inside are statues of the Buddha and Quan The Am Bo Tat. The pagoda is swamped with pilgrims 15 days before and one month after Tet. Another worship deluge occurs in March and April.