Monday , July 22 2024

Discovering Dong Nai: pomelo paradise to forest canopies in 48 hours


In a 48-hour escape to Dong Nai, travelers can explore the blend of culture and nature, savor local food like pomelo salad, and visit historical sites.

Dong Nai isn’t just a major economic hub known for its industrial strength, but also boasts vibrant culture and scenic landscapes, including forests, waterfalls, and lakes, situated about 91 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City.

The 48-hour trip is recommended with insights from Ngoc Tram, a local tour guide.

DAY 1

Begin your journey from Ho Chi Minh City, a mere 30-minute drive along the Hanoi Highway and National Highway 1K, to reach the capital of Dong Nai Province, Bien Hoa city, situated along the Dong Nai River.

Cù lao Phố nằm giữa trung tâm TP Biên Hòa. Ảnh: Phước Tuấn

Cu Lao Pho Island in the central part of Bien Hoa City. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan

For breakfast, try local favorites like beef noodle soup at Sen Vang, pork and prawn clear noodle soup at Phuoc Nguyen, pho at Tu Hai, thick noodle soup at Xuan Hoa, or pork ball noodle soup at Ho Nai, priced from VND30,000 to VND60,000 ($1.20 to $2.50).

Alternatively, enjoy breakfast and coffee by the Dong Nai River on Cach Mang Thang Tam Street, where you might catch fishermen casting nets under Ghenh Bridge.

Tourists can start exploring Cu Lao Pho Island in the center of Bien Hoa City, which houses historical relics like the Nguyen Huu Canh Temple, Ong Pagoda, and Dai Giac Pagoda, each with a history of over 300 years. These sites are linked to the region’s historical beginnings.

Next on the journey is the Tran Bien Temple of Literature, recognized as the oldest Confucian temple in Dong Nai Province.

Following that, there’s the Buu Long Tourist Area, often referred to as “Ha Long Bay on land.” Lastly, discover the historic Buu Phong Pagoda, with a history spanning nearly 400 years.

Move upstream to Dong Nai, and explore Tan Trieu Island in Tan Binh Commune, Vinh Cuu District, located approximately 8 kilometers from Bien Hoa. Tan Trieu is known for its pomelo village.

At Tan Trieu Island, there are numerous riverside restaurants where visitors can opt for lunch. Additionally, visitors have the option to select a leaf hut situated beside Tan Trieu Canal. This allows them to enjoy lunch in a picturesque setting and explore the nearby pomelo garden.

Gỏi bưởi ở làng bưởi Tân Triều. Ảnh: Đăng Ninh

A serving of pomelo salad includes pomelo fruit combined with prawns, accompanied by prawn crackers. Photo by VnExpress/Dang Ninh

The popular dishes among tourists include pomelo salad, steamed chicken with pomelo, and fried sticky rice. The pomelo salad features ripe pomelo, river shrimp, pork belly, roasted peanuts, coriander, with a blend of sweet, sour, and salty flavors from spices.

The fried sticky rice is prepared by pounding the rice, stuffing it with sugar and green beans, and then frying it.

Another lunch option suggested by Tram is Tan Mai rafting village, which offers fish salad and goby hotpot featuring freshwater prawns from Dong Nai River.

After having lunch at Tan Trieu Island, visitors can explore the Dong Nai Cultural Nature Reserve, which includes War Zone D – a military base area used during the Vietnam War – in Ma Da Forest. Activities such as walking under the forest canopy or cycling are recommended.

Noteworthy sites within the reserve include the leaders’ office building, adorned with a roof covered in leaves, a tunnel system, and an underground bamboo vent stove. This stove, known as Hoang Cam, was utilized to disperse cooking smoke, making it difficult for enemy planes to detect soldiers’ positions.

Relics from the Eastern Region Party Committee and the Central Committee of the Central Office for South Vietnam are significant historical sites situated on the battlefield of War Zone D. These relics bear witness to the two periods of resistance against the French and the Americans.

Visitors have the option to camp overnight by Tri An Lake, with services priced between VND800,000 to VND1.8 million ($32 to $74) per person, inclusive of dinner and a camping BBQ.

Alternatively, they can take a canoe to O Dong Truong Island in the middle of the lake for VND150,000 per person round trip. The area offers various entertainment services, including bicycle and electric car rentals around the island.

For those preferring overnight rooms, prices range from VND900,000 to VND1.5 million for a 3-star standard room. This accommodation allows visitors to enjoy nature amid cool forests and lakes.

Du khách vui chơi bên một con suối ở nhà vườn TP Long Khánh. Ảnh: Lò Văn Hợp

Visitors cross a stream at a garden house in Long Khanh City, carrying bunches of rambutan, a Dong Nai specialty. Photo by VnExpress/Lo Van Hop

DAY 2

Tourists can wake up to the beauty of a lakeside sunrise in crisp weather. The campsite provides a pot of chicken porridge as an alternative to the typical city breakfast. Alternatively, visitors have the option to venture into Vinh An Town for a taste of snakehead fish thick noodle soup.

After breakfast, tourists drive north to explore fruit gardens in Long Khanh City, known for its green development and fruit gardens supporting eco-tourism. Traveling to Xuan Lap Commune in Binh Loc during the fruit season allows visitors to pick and enjoy a variety of fruits like rambutan, mangosteen, durian, jackfruit, and guava.

In Long Khanh, attractions include the Cu Thach Hang Gon Tomb , Suoi Tre Park, villas, and sites reflecting the leisurely lifestyle of the Southeast region. The Cu Thach Hang Gon Tomb stands out as an exceptional relic, showcasing the artistic and technical prowess of ancient Vietnamese people.

Between November and March provides a scenic journey through vibrant rubber forests with leaves changing to bright red hues, especially in locations like Hang Gon, Suoi Tre, and Xuan Que.

Cao su mùa thay lá. Ảnh: Lò Văn Hợp

The winter and spring seasons in Long Khanh City are marked by the changing color of rubber tree leaves. Photo by VnExpress/Lo Van Hop

Around noon, visitors can enjoy lunch at Nui Le Lake in Gia Ray Town, Xuan Loc District, and then explore Chua Chan Mountain.

They can reach the mountain either by cable car or on foot, with round-trip cable car tickets priced at VND160,000 ($6), a convenient option for those with limited time.

Climbing actively takes approximately 2 hours. Chua Chan Mountain, the second-highest peak in the southeast region after Ba Den Mountain. The mountain has an arc shape with three peaks, covering 1,400 hectares. It serves as the source for four streams, maintaining cool water year-round.

On Chua Chan Mountain, notable features include the famous banyan tree with three roots, along with Buu Quang Pagoda, Lam Son Pagoda, Linh Son Pagoda, the former vacation house of the French governor, and King Bao Dai’s tea garden, forming a picturesque complex.

If visitors choose to travel by road, they can indulge in specialty dishes like banh xeo – crispy pancakes and cassava cakes, sold by locals at reasonable prices.

In the afternoon, tourists return to Ho Chi Minh City via Phan Thiet – Dau Giay and Ho Chi Minh City – Long Thanh – Dau Giay expressways, taking about an hour.

For alternatives, those heading to Chua Chan Mountain can explore additional attractions like Ba Chong Rock in Dinh Quan District, Cat Tien National Park, and the largest bat cave in Southeast Asia bordering Dinh Quan and Tan Phu districts.

Cat Tien National Park offers sights such as the sky waterfall, opportunities to engage in wildlife observation during the nighttime, and explore Ta Lai Longhouse, the first eco-tourism project by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Vietnam. Located in Ta Lai Commune, Tan Phu District, the house is made of wood and bamboo, with a leafy roof and wooden floor, mimicking homes of the Chau Ma ethnic group.

Other suitable tourist areas include mango garden in Bien Hoa City, Giang Dien Waterfall in Trang Bom District, Mo River in Dinh Quan District, and the Golden Scorpion Ecological Tourist Area in Nhon Trach District. Those interested in exploring Bien Hoa at night can stroll around Bien Hung night market and Nguyen Van Tri riverbank park.

Món xôi chiên phồng ăn cùng gà nướng. Ảnh: Đăng Ninh

Fried sticky rice is often eaten with grilled chicken. Photo by VnExpress/Dang Ninh

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