Despite having no major natural attractions or even facilities like quality hotels and resorts, Ha Tien Town in the southern province of Kien Giang, Viet Nam, is an extremely attractive place thanks to its primitive beauty.
Ha Tien, around 300km from HCM City, sprung up in the late 17th century amidst mountains, seas, and islands.
The town sits on Dong Ho Lagoon near To Chau Mountain's green pepper gardens and the famous pagodas of Phu Dung and Tam Bao.
Legend has it that because of the region's enchanting landscapes, Tien (fairies) would come there. Ha Tien derives its name from this saga.
It is said that Ha Tien has a little bit of the landscapes of all famous nature spots in the country. It has caves resembling those in the northern mountainous province of Lang Son, rocks erupting from the sea like in Ha Long Bay, and limestone cliffs like those found in the northern province of Ninh Binh.
Ha Tien also has mausoleums like those in Thuan Hoa region - the old name for Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien - Hue, and part of Quang Nam provinces-'in the centre and beautiful beaches like as those in Nha Trang and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
Binh San Mountain is a terrific vantage point for viewing Ha Tien. The town, seen from the top, appears extremely fetching: on one side is the East Sea and on the other is the Voi Phuc (kneeling elephant) mountain. Scattered all around are limestone mountains.
Eight hundred metres from Ha Tien is Lang mountain. Close to it is a splendid lotus pond which used to be an irrigation canal built during the time of the Mac Thien Tich Dynasty.
The Thach Grotto, also called Van Son, is another attractive destination. Situated 3km from the town, the cave abuts a giant green rock. Inside the cave are hundreds of stalactites and stalagmites in bizarre shapes.
Among Ha Tien's other attractions are the area surrounding Dong Dinh Cave and Dong Dinh Lagoon, locally known as Dong Ho (east lake). Dong Ho is most beautiful on moonlit nights, but even during the day it is pretty as a picture and tranquil. For fishermen it is a natural refuge, offering protection from storms.
Close to the sea is Den Mountain. Standing on its top is an ancient lighthouse that has guided ships for over 500 years.
The sea off Ha Tien is widely known for its turquoise waters, clean beaches, and odd-shaped rocks.
Mui Nai Beach is an ideal place for swimming. It is not very deep, has clean, brown sand, clear water, and gentle waves.
Bang Beach is lined with hundreds of ancient sea almond trees (Indian almonds).
Phu Tu (father and son) Islet, which lies more than 100m offshore, is considered to be a symbol of Ha Tien. For tourists coming to Ha Tien, it is a magnet. A curious rock formation with one lying on top of another, called the Father and Son Rock, was destroyed a few years ago by the elements.
Chong Islet and Binh Tri and Hai Tac archipelagos are also great places to enjoy the ocean and try activities like swimming and snorkeling.
After visiting Hang Pagoda which lies in a deep cave adjoining the sea, tourists can take a 10-minute ride by canoe to get to Gia Long grotto which too has many beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
In addition to its beautiful landscapes, Ha Tien also has many places of historical significance, such as ancient tombs and pagodas and the mausoleum of Mac Cuu, a Chinese migrant who is credited with building Ha Tien. The mausoleum is located on a large hill surrounded by giant old trees.
The night market in Ha Tien is another must-see. It sells odd and interesting souvenirs and other items, from simple handicrafts made of stone, shells, glass, and plastic to luxurious jewellery made of gold and precious stones.
Ha Tien's cuisine is popular and extremely delicious. Canh chua ca kem (sour fish soup), chao trang va ca kho to (rice gruel with braised anchovy), hu tieu nam vang hai san (noodle with seafood), bun ken dua (ken dua vermicelli), and fruits like palmyra and durian are among the most popular with visitors.