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Introducing Hon Chong

You'll pass Khmer pagodas, Cao Dai temples, grandiose churches and karst outcrops en route to Hon Chong, home to photogenic stone grottoes and the nicest stretch of sand on the delta’s mainland. Unfortunately, a permanent cloud of discharge from a cement factory can blight the otherwise scenic views. Beyond the beach, the main draw is an atmospheric Buddhist cave shrine.

After passing through the scrappy 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 rocky 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 at the orphan remains.

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 cool grotto itself, whose entrance is located behind the altar. Inside are statues of Sakyamuni, Quan The Am Bo Tat and small cabinets enclosing green glass Buddhas. Mind your head on the low-hanging rock roof of the cave leading to the beach. The pagoda is swamped with pilgrims 15 days before and one month after Tet, while another deluge of worshippers arrives in March and April.

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