Ho Chau Islands (Cu Lao Ho Chau) in Soc Trang Province are a cluster of islands along the Hau River and one of the most interesting places which are worth visiting in the Mekong Delta region.
Situated in a triangular shape, with its base facing the sea, the islands of Ho Chau part the Hau River into two branches before the river throws itself into the ocean at the two estuaries of Dinh An and Tran De. Without a guide, tourists may easily get lost in the maze of Ho Chau Islands’ 300km of passages crisscrossing the islands, for these passages are bordered all along by tall hedges. As tourists wander around, they can, if they wish, just reach out to pick fruits growing in the orchards on both sides of the river. At high tide, one of the greatest pleasures is to cruise along those corridors in small boats or on rafts.
It is common for visitors to Ho Chau Islands to receive a warm welcome from the very hospitable local people, who usually present them with coconut juice or fruits, freshly gathered from the orchards. This produce follows the very pleasant Vietnamese custom of offering visitors "gifts from our own gardens". They may chat with old peasants who would tell tales from the past, or war stories from the time of Vietnam’s resistance against the French colonialists and then the American troops.
Visitors might get invited to taste local culinary specialties that are running the risk of extinction because of modernization, such as ca bong sao kho chon (a special dish made of ca bong sao fish, cooked in sugar until it is caramelized). It is said the special unique taste of the dish comes from the bong sao fish liver, enhanced by the taste of the fresh cabbage leaves it has to be eaten with. Another local specialty is the famous charcoal grilled thoi loi fish, eaten with rice vermicelli, fresh herbs and sour fish source.
At sunset, visitors many want to enjoy a boat ride on the Trang which in the old days was called the Ba Thac Estuary, one of the nine estuaries of the Mekong River. As night falls down, the fire-flies appear and light up the darkness around the local ban trees. The protective forest of ban trees which grow along the banks of the Hau River are said to be encroaching on the sea day by day. Ban fruits are very much appreciated by local women who eat them with salt or shrimp paste to soften their sour taste.