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Móng Cái's bustling atmosphere seems to revolve around its border crossing into China, with hotel signs protruding from every corner and motorbike drivers crowding the streets, ready to sweep Chinese and Vietnamese businessmen to their desired destination. A small smattering of tourists—mostly bound for Trá C% —wander the streets and buy cheap Chinese goods, but the overwhelming theme of this city is international business, both legal and illegal. Surprisingly, Móng Cái lacks the sleaze and grime common of border towns. A day in Móng Cái en route to the bays of the south or the hills of the northwest is well spent, given the city's internationally flavored nightlife. Since few other foreigners make it to Móng Cái, there is little demand for English and therefore a limited supply of Anglophones. If you speak Mandarin or Cantonese—or even if you just really like Chinese food—you'll have no problem.
Ferries: Fast-paced hydrofoils connect Móng Cái to Vñn ·n Island and Hå Long City. To Hå Long (3hr.; 9am, 2pm; US$14), H=i Phòng (9hr.; daily 6:30pm), and Vñn ·n (2hr.; daily 2pm; US$7). Buy tickets at the hydrofoil office, 1 Tr<n Phú (☎883 988), at the intersection past the bridge, to the left of the post office. Open daily 6am-5pm.
Buses: The bus station is on the southwestern edge of town, over the bridge and about 1km from the town center (open daily 4am-5pm). Frequent buses go to H=i Phòng (7-9hr.; 18 per day; 45,000-55,000), Hå Long City (5-6hr.; every 30min. 4:30am-5pm; 60,000), and Hà Nÿi (8-10hr.; every 30min. 4:30am-7:30pm; 60,000-80,000).
Orientation And Practical Information
The main street, Hùng V™£ng, lopsidedly bisects Móng Cái. The bus station lies on the southwestern outskirts of the city. A walk or drive from the bus stop up Hùng V™£ng passes over the bridge and hits the first major intersection at a roundabout, then heads east through the city and out onto the coast. Tr<n Phú, the second major street, runs its course from the town's major intersection, passes the market, and heads north toward the Chinese border.
The hydrofoil office is on the corner to the left of the GPO. To cash traveler's checks, get MC/V cash advances, or to change American, Australian, British, or Canadian currency, go to the Vietcombank, 2 Vñn ·n. There is a 24hr. ATM outside. Turn left onto Tr<n Phú at the main intersection and then take the next left onto Vñn ·n. The bank is at the end of the street on your right. (☎881 211; fax 881 676. Open M-F 7-11:30am and 1-4:30pm. 25,000 fee for cash advances.) There is a large pharmacy on 7 Tr<n Phú, to the left of the hydrofoil office. (☎770 536. Open daily 7am-11pm.) There are plenty of Internet parlors around the city, all charging 3000 per hr. There are a few cafes right by the post office, which sits across from the bridge at the intersection with Tr<n Phú. (☎881 101. International phones, ATM, and international mail and telegrams inside. Open daily 7am-9pm.)
Accommodations in Móng Cái are scattered throughout the city, with distinct clusters near the bus station and around the market in the center of town. Rooms are plentiful but expensive. Some hotels promise luxurious quarters but fail to deliver; others are run out of houses, stores, and pharmacies, sometimes luring visitors with a nonexistent discounted price. Bargain especially hard in Móng Cái. The prices below are written as stated by their establishment owners. Some of the better options are found near the bus station.
Thanh at, 49B Hùng V™£ng (☎887 013). Thanh at is the name written on the awning above this makeshift hotel, but this place is run out of a shop selling plastic shoes. A small guesthouse with cheap beds. Small, uninteresting rooms 80,000.
Hoàng Ti\n Hotel, 105 Tr<n Phú (☎887 916), near the town market. Though the friendly staff speaks no English, they can hunt down someone who can. Rooms are pleasant and clean, with A/C and neat private baths. Small, windowless rooms with double bed and TV 100,000; larger rooms 150,000.
Bình Minh Hotel, 1 Vñn ·n (☎881 185; fax 881 014), across from Vietcombank. The surrounding area, close to the market, is quite lively, but it's a long walk from the bus station. Large rooms with clean baths and twin beds. Doubles 140,000, with A/C 160,000; triples 160,000-170,000.
Nha Nghœ Hñi ™ng, 66 ™ng Lˆ H™´ Trác (☎887 547). From the bus station, turn right and hook the first left. A middle-of-the-road guesthouse with well-maintained rooms. All rooms are 120,000, but quality varies. Check your room before paying.
Móng Cái's Vietnamese food is unexciting, but it has some tasty Chinese food. Standard ph and c£m shops can be found all over town. There is a cluster of them next to the town market and around the bus station. One popular c£m restaurant can be found near the town market, at 99 Tri\u ™ng 1. Turn right off Tr<n Phú before the main square market; the restaurant is about 15m down the street on the right. There is no menu—just point at the raw materials you want included. (Tasty c£m with seafood, meat, or veggies 15,000-20,000. Open daily 10:30am-8:30pm.) Nhà Hành Trang Nguy[n 2 is the best Cantonese restaurant in town. Heading away from the bus station, turn right on the street before the bridge and the restaurant is one block down. Run by a friendly English-speaking Hong Kong native, Nhà Hành Trang Nguy[n serves everything from seafood to dim sum. Although the prices are listed in Chinese currency, Œ·ng and US dollars are also accepted. (☎884 205. Entrees US$1-3. Open daily 10am-midnight.)
After the border crossing, the markets just might be the town's biggest attraction. Stalls upon stalls of vendors sell fruit, food, and imported Chinese goods. Vietnamese flock to Móng Cái to buy everything from toilets to CD players at cheap Chinese prices. On the southern edge of the main market square, booths of tailors make for a warped imitation of Hÿi An. Electronic and appliance stores fill the streets near the market and line the way to the border crossing. To reach the market from the bus station, head toward the post office and hook a left onto Tr<n Phú. Continue straight until you see the three roof-covered markets on the left. Some stalls spread into nearby streets and alleys, so hunt around. The market is open daily 6:30am-6pm. The large stadium-like building near the post office is actually a clothing wholesaler (open 6am-noon).
Móng Cái has a surprisingly lively nightlife. Families and tourists meander along the bridge and through the streets that branch off from the intersection in the center of town. The cafes along the river offer a more romantic setting, and a younger crowd tends to gather along Hùng V™£ng and in the two pulsating clubs. The town's five-star hotel has a 24hr. casino, too, but local Vietnamese are not allowed into the hotel, so the only gamblers are Chinese.
Phòng Biˆu Di[n Disco (☎770 557), in the Chinese store complex just across the bridge from the GPO, on the way to the bus station. A bar and lounge share the floor with a karaoke and disco bar. On karaoke nights, locals and Chinese patrons of all ages gather to admire singers. Soda 15,000. Beer 20,000-22,000. Cover only on nights with guest performers. Open nightly 8pm-midnight.
Kinh ® Club, 10 Hùng V™£ng (☎887 557). Tables filled with Vietnamese youth mesmerized by the daring few who brave the dance floor. Coke 12,000-15,000; liquor 30,000. White Russian 35,000. Cover 50,000 only on nights with musical guests. Open daily 7:30-11:30pm.
Cafe Trung Nguy[n, 2 H· Xuñn H™£ng (☎884 336), at the major intersection to the right of the post office. Frequented by locals throughout the day and packed with a mix of Vietnamese and Chinese at night. Cute terraced seating upstairs is a major draw. Coffee 7000-9000, with ice 7000-11,000. Open daily 6am-midnight.
ÿi B˚i Cafe, 26 Nguy[n Du (☎772 029), to the right of the post office. Home to the only Russian (or blond) you are likely to see in town—Natasha makes some mean sinh tó (fruit juice with milk or yogurt) for 10,000. Mangosteen and mango are especially delicious. Open daily 6:30am-11pm.
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