This article was written in October 2021 by Ray Kuschert, an Australian who has been living in Ho Chi Minh City for over eight years. In it, he recalls his experiences traveling to the southern province of Tay Ninh prior to COVID-19 restrictions.
The story was edited and titled by Tuoi Tre News.
Recently, local authorities agreed to pilot a ‘travel bubble’ which will allow for one-day tours from Ho Chi Minh City to Tay Ninh following months of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Tourists visit Tay Ninh on October 18, 2021 as the province and Ho Chi Minh City piloted a ‘travel bubble’ to offer one-day tours after months of COVID-19 hibernation. Photo: Nhu Binh / Tuoi Tre
The wonders of Tay Ninh, northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, have long been a secret excluded from most foreigners’ travel plans, but the end of social distancing and the return of weekend getaways mean southern Vietnam and the raw beauty of the province are once again open for exploration.
Just 100km from Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh Province lies merely 20km from the Cambodian border. The region has long been considered a rural outpost with no real value to foreign travelers, though that is slowly changing as development in the province has transformed the area into the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
With new four- and five-star hotels popping up in recent years, the region now caters to just about any budget. But, obviously, tourists don’t visit Tay Ninh for the hotels. In this southeastern province, it is amazing religious experiences for believers and non-believers that make the biggest impacts on visitors.
Topping the list of Tay Ninh’s tourist attractions is the recently improved Nui Ba Den (Ba Den Mountain). At 986 meters, the mountain boasts 300 years of history as a religious icon, as well as holding the title of the tallest mountain in the region and serving as a communication station for the U.S. during the war in Vietnam.
A place of peace, Ba Den Mountain now features one of the biggest cable car stations of its type in the world. After taking a cable car up the Buddhist Pagoda atop the mountain, you can explore several old temples, eat ice cream, and feed the group of monkeys that calls the mountain ‘home.’ Just make sure to keep your bags secure and in your hand because the monkeys are known for stealing bags, especially if they have food inside.
|Tourists are pictured taking the cable car up Ba Den Mountain in Tay Ninh on October 18, 2021 as the province and Ho Chi Minh City piloted a ‘travel bubble’ to offer one-day tours after months of COVID-19 hibernation. Photo: Nhu Binh / Tuoi Tre
Depending on your sense of adventure, there are several amazing options of what to do after visiting the pagoda. The easiest way down the mountain is to jump back on the cable car and return to the base, but visitors looking for some extra excitement can take the 300m trail down the mountain, catch a hair-raising toboggan ride to the foot of the mountain which whips you through the forests, or head upwards on a two-to-three-hour hike that brings you to the summit.
|In this supplied photo, Ray Kuschert and his wife take a toboggan ride after visiting Ba Den Pagoda in Tay Ninh Province.
If you still have time after visiting the pagoda, another cable car line has opened up a world of possibilities for visitors to Ba Den Mountain. Recently opened as a means of transport from the foot to the very top of the mountain, the view from the summit on a clear day stretches all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia. Visitors can spend hours on top of the mountain exploring the complex, taking in 360-degree views, and even enjoying a meal.
|Tourists take the cable car at Ba Den Mountain in Tay Ninh on October 18, 2021 as the province and Ho Chi Minh City piloted a ‘travel bubble’ to offer one-day tours after months of COVID-19 hibernation. Photo: Nhu Binh / Tuoi Tre
|Visitors pose for photo at a milestone atop Ba Den Mountain in Tay Ninh Province on October 18, 2021. Photo: Nhu Binh / Tuoi Tre
The famed Cao Dai Holy See in the provincial capital city of Tay Ninh is a great option for tourists looking for a relaxing outing after spending a day at Ba Den Mountain. This amazing 84-hectare complex is a photographer’s paradise. With the enormous pink church as its centerpiece, visitors are welcome to walk around and experience the majestic temples and surrounding park. During prayer time, viewing platforms open for guests to observe the hypnotic chants of the Cao Dai people. Outside, there is also a protected area for local monkeys. They often come to the fence to take food so be sure to bring along a snack to share. The Cao Dai Holy See is a real hidden gem in southern Vietnam and a must-see for weekend travelers and tourists alike.
|Two rows of colorful dragon pillars highlight the interior architecture of the Cao Dai Holy See in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre
Just a short drive outside Tay Ninh City is Dau Tieng Reservoir. This freshwater lake is the lifeblood of the region and features a range of activities for people of all ages. Scattered around the lake are dozens of small restaurants that serve up a range of local specialties, from chicken and seafood to homemade wine. Nearly all of them offer hammocks for visitors to sleep off their lunches before returning to the city.
For more adventurous visitors, there are places to camp and swim, as well as opportunities to get on the water in a local boat. Your local hotel will have plenty of information about things to do around Dau Tieng Lake.
Getting to Tay Ninh can be half the fun of this short trip. At just 100km from the center of Ho Chi Minh City, you can easily travel by bicycle, motorcycle or car, and there are the options of booking a tourist bus or local bus that you can catch from District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. For those who enjoy the comfort, a car service is also available at a reasonable price and is easily found through social media and tourism outlets across the city.
Let’s get out and experience the wonders of southern Vietnam. Tay Ninh is a must-see for expats and visitors alike. You can enjoy great food, great views, and great experiences in this little-known province. Tay Ninh is yet another hidden jewel in southern Vietnam. Be sure to book a visit soon.