Sam Mountain, known locally as Nui Sam, is a 240 meter high mountain located just a stone's throw away from Chau Doc in the Mekong Delta. The summit not only offers a spectacular view of the Vietnamese countryside, but the surrounding areas house a multitude of cave temples and pagodas, with strong Chinese influences. Sam Mountain is a pilgrimage site, both for Vietnamese locals and tourists.
The surroundings of the Nui Sam have a great historic significance and has numerous pagodas, tombs and temples, primary amongst them include - Ba Chua Xu Temple, Tay An Pagoda, Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb, Tao Ngo Garden. This is the perfect place for photographers that like taking beautiful views from the top, people who enjoy trekking and those who want some laid back time amidst the natural beauty of Vietnam.
Hiking up Sam Mountain
To reach the summit of Sam Mountain, it is a steep walk up the eastern side of the mountain. For the less active folk, there are motorbikes available that will give you a ride up the slope. The walk up the mountain gives you the enriching opportunity to visit a Khmer village and observe their way of life. You can also stop by the innumerable rice paddy fields and marvel at how rice grows. The summit has a small shrine, but it pales in comparison to the spectacular view the top offers - miles and miles of green countryside and if the weather permits, you can look over the border into Cambodia. The mountain is a military outpost - a legacy from the days of cross-border tensions, but is still functional and you may have to bribe the soldiers before you take pictures of them or anything military related. The north road leads you down the mountain and is decorated with tiny dinosaur statuettes, giving it an amusement park feel to it.
Tay An Temple
When you are at Nui Sam, a temple that is definitely worth a visit is the Tay An temple. Located almost at the foot of Sam Mountain, it is a Buddhist temple with a lot of historic and architectural significance. The temple was first built by the Governor of An Giang, Doan Uan in 1847. The temple has been renovated a number of times throughout history, and each renovation has added its own influence of the culture of that period. The temple shows strong Buddhist as well as Hindu influences, with a number of statues of Buddha, elephants, the devas, Bodhisattvas and stupas. The Tay An temple hosts pompous celebrations during Buddhist festivals and this attracts a large number of pilgrims.
Where to Stay at Nui Sam
Victoria Nui Sam Lodge is a lodge located on the flank of Sam mountain. It is visible while descending and the tranquility and exciting view from the hotel make it an extraordinary place to stay during your visit in and around Mekong Delta.
How to Reach Nui Sam
Sam Mountain is a fairly remote location and hence there are no rail, boat or flight services. The only way to reach Sam Mountain is by road from Chau Doc. You can hire a cab to take you from the main Chau Doc city to Sam Mountain. However, for the physically fit, it is a pleasant 6 km walk.
Phnom Penh to Nui Sam: Though Phnom Penh is in Cambodia, Sam Mountain is closer to it than any other major Vietnamese city. Sam Mountain can be reached either by road or by water from Phnom Penh (Note: You need a Vietnamese Visa to visit Sam Mountain). A speedboat/ferry carries people from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc. It takes about 4 and a half hours to reach Chau Doc from Phonm Penh. Sam mountain is about 3 hours abway from Phnom Penh by road. You can either choose to book a taxi or take the bus service to Chau Doc.
Tips on Visiting Nui Sam
Sam mountain is a fairly deserted area, though it has a few stores selling their wares and a cafe. It is a great idea to carry lots of water and some snacks to munch on. Wear lots of sunscreen. Also beware of local hawkers trying to coerce you into buying their products at unreasonable prices.
Nui Sam is a magnificent place to visit, offering spectacular views from the summit as well as its deep historical and religious significance. A trip to the mountain is sure to keep you wanting more.