One of the most iconic images of Vietnam is the unique floating forest experience that can be found in the Mekong Delta. Well, if you want to visit without the crowds, Tra Su Cajuput Forest in Chau Doc is the place to go!
One of the highlights of our 10-day road trip through the Mekong Delta in the South of Vietnam was a visit to the Tra Su Cajuput Forest, a vast wetland area on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. The site embodies the quintessential Mekong Delta experience; towering mangrove forests and rowboats navigating tranquil waterways. If you’re exploring the Mekong Delta, this is a must-add stop for your itinerary!
This guide shares how to visit the Tra Su Cajuput Forest, including how to get to Chau Doc, where to stay and what you can expect visiting the floating forest.
Where is Tra Su Cajuput Forest?
Tra Su Cajuput Forest can be found 240km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, near the border with Cambodia. The nearest town, and the best place to base yourself during your trip to the floating forest, is Chau Doc.
Chau Doc is home to many people from the Cham Ethnic group, leading the area to have a unique culture compared to the rest of Vietnam. You can find hand-woven scarves, sacred temples and lots of fresh seafood from the rivers that bring life to the Mekong Delta.
Best time of year to visit
The best time to visit the floating forests of the Mekong Delta, including the Tra Su Cajuput Forest in Chau Doc is during and in the months following monsoon season – typically from May to November. This is when the forest is flooded by the incoming rains, bringing it to life. We visited in December and I highly recommend this time of year as the forest was flooded, yet the rains had ceased leaving behind glorious blue skies.
Getting to Chau Doc
To visit Tra Su Forest you will want to base yourself in the city of Chau Doc, bordering the Cambodia border and about 250km west of Saigon. The city itself is a place of great importance to pilgrims, and the region is dotted with hundreds of temples.
We drove to Chau Doc from Rach Gia in the south of Vietnam, but you could also drive from Can Tho city or directly from Ho Chi Minh City.
From Rach Gia
The route we took was particularly interesting as we drove through lots of Khmer communities and you’ll see lots of temples that are unique in Vietnam lining the roads. These temples reminded me a lot of those found in Cambodia which is unsurprising considering the proximity to the border. They’re extremely decorative, adorned in gold and covered in ancient Khmer scripture. If you’re looking to see something a little different to the normal road trip scenes, then this route is perfect.
From Ho Chi Minh City
The route to Chau Doc from Ho Chi Minh City is pretty straightforward, starting with highways before splitting off onto smaller country roads. If you wanted to break up the journey, then an overnight stop at Tan Lap floating village would be perfect (this floating village is similar to Tra Su Forest but on a smaller scale).
Bus is the easiest way to travel to Chau Doc from Ho Chi Minh City. You can find and see all the bus options on Baolau*, a search engine that compares travel options to help you find the best one for you. I recommending taking a night bus here but would suggest also booking a nights accommodation as they all arrive pretty early in the morning and you’ll want some extra rest before heading to the forest.
Where to Stay in Chau Doc
We opted to stay in the city centre of Chau Doc for the convenience of finding food, however, if your sole purpose of visiting is to see the Tra Su forest then you could choose to stay at one of the homestays or hotels near Sam Mountain which would reduce your travel time to the reserve. We stayed at Nhà Nghỉ Lucky* (Lucky Homestay) which wasn’t the most luxurious of homestays but it was clean, the hosts were nice and it was super budget-friendly. It was also right in the centre of town making eating out really convenient.
Other options for places to stay in Chau Doc:
• The Luxe Hotel Châu Đốc* (located on the outskirts of the city, this place looks perfect to just get up and go to the forest)
• Victoria Nui Sam Lodge* (for those with a budget to spend, this place looks amazing and is located halfway between the city and the forest)
Visiting Tra Su Cajuput Forest
The Tra Su Cajuput Forest is a protected nature reserve in the South of Vietnam, home to a diverse ecosystem of birds, plants and fish. During the Vietnam-America war, the area was intensely bombed, destroying much of the diversity here. Since then, the area has been protected and reforested, returning hundreds of species to the area.
Weaving through the tranquil floating cajuput forest on row boats fulfils the iconic image many visitors have of the Mekong Delta.
Getting to Tra Su Cajuput Forest
Tra Su Cajuput Forest is about 23km from Chau Doc, so you will need a motorbike for the 45-minute drive. If you don’t want to drive a scooter yourself, I have heard that you can organise tours in the city, however haven’t been able to find any information about this online and would recommend asking your hotel* for assistance.
The roads are mostly good, looping around Sam Mountain before heading off the highways and onto narrow country roads (though well kept). If you enjoy exploring pagodas then stop off at Sam Mountain, which is a place of holy pilgrimage and adorned with many different pagodas.
Tickets for Visiting Tra Su Cajuput Forest in Chau Doc
When we visited Tra Su Cajuput Forest at the end of 2020, there was a new visitor centre and ticket office being created and it was clear that there was lots of investment going into the nature reserve to make it more of an attraction. You can purchase entrance tickets for only 100k but I highly recommend buying a bundle ticket that includes the speed boat (additional 50k) and rowboat (a further 50k) making the full ticket 200k.
What to do in Tra Su Cajuput Forest
Once into the reserve, there’s a short boardwalk over a lake that takes you to a dock. Here you board a speed boat that will take you through the wide avenues of the floating forests. To enter the floating forest we travelled across a swampy area, painted a vibrant green by a sea of floating plants.
The Tra Su Cajuput Forest is part of a vast wetland ecosystem, home to many different species of birds. Our guide pointed out many of the birds to us as we paddled through the floating cajuput forest but the language barrier made it hard to tell the exact species and whether they were endangered, I have heard that there are endangered birds here.
Disembarking at a boardwalk deep in the floating forest, you’ll find a number of different pathways to explore and from here you can see the floating trees up close. There are also a number of vendors serving drinks and ice creams, plus a few souvenir shops and even some local from the Cham ethnic tribe weaving traditional fabric for purses and scarves to sell.
After a short wander around the forest, we were ready to head onto the smaller rowboats and wind through the narrow waterways. This was the most tranquil part of the day as we paddled silently through the floating trees. For this part of the day, you’ll most likely find yourself on a private rowboat. These boats are hand-paddled by the local people and it is hard work for them, so I highly recommend bringing extra cash to tip them.
The Lowdown on Visiting Tra Su Cajuput Forest
💰 200k per ticket (includes 2 boat rides)
⏰ We spent around 2hrs exploring the forest
Tra Su Cajuput Forest (Rừng Tràm Trà Sư)📍 Ấp Văn Trà, Xuân Tô, Tịnh Biên, An Giang
If you’re looking for the quintessential floating forest experience in Vietnam, then visiting the Tra Sua Cajuput Forest in Chau Doc is a must!
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Planning a Trip to the Mekong Delta?
For more information on planning a trip to the Mekong Delta, and other destinations in Vietnam, be sure to check out my Ultimate Vietnam Travel Guide which includes everything you need to know for travelling around the country.