Soc Trang is the capital of Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It’s not a big tourist destination, but it has some wonderful Khmer temples in and around the city. Soc Trang is the closest mainland port to Con Dao, so this is a faster trip than the boat from Vung Tau.
I was in Soc Trang to get this ferry to Con Dao. I’m also making a point to visit the provincial capitals of Vietnam, so instead of just going straight to the ferry, I stayed in Soc Trang first.
Soc Trang map
Places mentioned in this article are shown on this map.
[Map of Soc Trang.]
Soc Trang notes
My trip to Soc Trang was the end of a tour of the lesser-visited provinces of the Mekong. I started in Ca Mau and then went to Bac Lieu. Like those two cities, Soc Trang doesn’t have much written about it, so I headed straight for the central market.
There is a central market building, but most of the action spills out to the surrounding streets.
Even though it’s a relatively small city, it still has the glorious mayhem that you want from a market in Vietnam.
There are some remnants of old shophouses in the streets around the market area.
There is not much of old Soc Trang left though, so it’s a matter of walking down every street to find the last vestiges of the past.
[83 Phan Chu Trinh.]
[35 Pham Ngu Lau.]
[35 Ngo Quyen.]
[1 Pasteur St.]
I was at a restaurant where they had some old photos of Soc Trang on the wall.
Like so many places I’ve visited in the Mekong Delta this year, I wondered what might have been if they had been able to conserve some old buildings.
If you want to know more about Soc Trang, there is the Soc Trang Provincial Museum.
Soc Trang has a surprising amount of Khmer temples. Some of the best temples are a few kilometres outside the city centre. I walked to the Mahatup Pagoda temple, also known as the Bat Pagoda.
It was the wrong time of day for bats, but it’s never the wrong time of day for a rooster to be making a racket.
On the north side of the city is the Kh’Leang Temple.
Opposite the Kh’Leang Temple is the Soc Trang Church.
I passed these and other temples on the way to Som Rong Pagoda.
It has been described as the pearl of Soc Trang, and after visiting I wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade it to the Pearl of the Mekong Delta. Look at this ridiculously beautiful temple scene.
Tra Vinh is probably more famous for its Khmer temples, but this one is my favourite in the Mekong so far. I happened to be there at the end of the day when the sun was low on the horizon. The main temple building faces west, so the colours on the building stood out in the afternoon sun.
The temple was in the midst of constructing a giant reclining buddha when I was there. The structure was finished but the painters and decorators were still working on it. I think that this will become an iconic temple of the Mekong Delta that will bring more tourists to Soc Trang.
West of the city centre is the Huong Son Pagoda.
It also has a large buddha.
[Buddha at Huong Son.]
The city is split in two by a river with a walkway on either side.
The river is affected by the ebbs and flows of the Mekong, so the water height varies throughout the day.
I observed in Ha Tien that every provincial city has a dentist named Sai Gon, and the naming convention continues here.
Just about every province in Vietnam has a signature dish, and in Soc Trang, there is Bun Nuoc Leo. Not that I knew this at the time. I was scouring Google Maps for a place to eat when I saw this marked on the map.
I arrived to find everything that I dream of in a Vietnam street food scene. Little plastic seats, outside and under a tree, serving a soup I’ve never heard of before, by a group of lovely soup ladies who bemused and amused to see this foreigner turn up.
Bun Nuoc Leo is a soup with fish, shrimp, and pork, and it was amazing. I’m writing this report from my desk in Ho Chi Minh City, and sometimes I still daydream about sitting under a tree in the Mekong Delta while having a delicious soup.
I was walking to another place that I had marked out for lunch when I got distracted by the crowd at the Hương Sơn Pagoda.
The Huong Sơn Pagoda was a good place to visit, and the lunch was a bonus. If you are a vegetarian there are more options in the Mekong Delta than anywhere else in Vietnam, and big Buddhist temples often have an attached restaurant. It turned out that the other place I was going to had closed down, so I was obviously meant to eat here.
In my provincial wanders I have been making a note of what food chains are in Vietnam. The two biggest chains are Jollibee and Lotteria, both of whom are on a campaign to reach every corner of the country.
The chicken and rice place where I saw the old photos is at Quan Cơm Gia Dinh.
I didn’t find any cafes that stood out as highly recommended, so I just went to random places when I needed a break.
One place that stopped me in my tracks was Ca Phe Khoai Lac Lam. This beautiful building in the old part of the city required me to stop and have a coffee here.
The simple joy of having a Vietnamese iced coffee on little red plastic chairs with a bottomless glass of iced tea.
I went to Moon Cafe for a coconut ice cream.
There are no chain cafes here yet, which gives you an idea of how deep in the provinces Soc Trang is.
The nearest airport is around 60 km away in Can Tho.
There are direct bus services to HCMC at the Soc Trang Bus Station, and local buses from the Tra Man station go to Can Tho, Bac Lieu, and towns in Soc Trang province.
[Local buses at Tra Man station.]
The Soc Trang ferry port is at Tran De, 35 km away. There are two ferry services to Con Dao: Superdong and Phu Quoc Express. The Phu Quoc Express service was starting in Can Tho with a stop at Tran De, but when I visited the Can Tho service wasn’t running. I’m not sure if this is a permanent cancellation.
I booked my ticket via Baolau, and I’m glad I did it that way. I had originally booked on Phu Quoc Express, but that service got cancelled. Baolau messaged me about the cancellation and asked if I wanted to rebook on Superdong.
Superdong offers a shuttle service from their ticket office in Soc Trang to the port. Search for Soc Trang – Con Dao ferry tickets.
My next destination was Con Dao.