In South-East Asia’s southern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is the hub of some of the nation’s most interesting cultures, traditions, and hamlets connected by canals or rivers rather than by road. And that is the real meaning of delta wherein the Mekong River is divided into miniature tributaries to meet the sea. The entire area is designated as the biological trove due to its hundreds of unique marine creatures as well as because of the manner in which the residents live a tailored life on water.
Taking birth from the Tibetan Plateau, Asia’s third longest river spreads in Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Southern China, and Laos Burma; however, in Vietnam, it is the vital source of livelihood as it is the producer of over 50% of the total agricultural output. For the tourists, the Mekong Delta is a vital cruise destination crawling with the fascinating floating markets, boats, and sampans all together rendering the area as an attention-grabbing site to explore.
Accessing the delta
The nearest city to the delta is Ho Chi Minh that is reachable quickly from Can Tho or My Tho that is famous for its several boat tours. From My Tho, most of the tourists explore the closely nestled four islands as well as the Ben Tre area’s northern shore offering a beach-like ambiance. If you are at Ho Chi Minh, there are several buses to reach My Tho, but it is better to avoid that because of the bad road sections and ironically traffic jams that might consume your four hours of travel.
To get to the islands, it is recommended to catch a public ferry as that is the only cheapest mode of transport here. However, if you are willing to spend a bit more for a memorable experience of the waterways as well as canals, a charter boat is the best option. Otherwise, several tour operators from My Tho run many different boat trips such as a group or private tours.
Even in the Ho Chi Minh City, several tour companies offer one or two day trips. My one-day trip was via the Vy Khanh Guesthouse that included hotel transport, lunch, coconut candy factory tour, rowing boat ride, and island expeditions. And all this just was for £7.00.
The floating markets are the major highlights in the region of Mekong Delta, which are best explored in the area’s biggest town called Can Tho nestled at the convergence of the two rivers: Hau Giang and Can Tho and reachable from HO Chi Minh in four hours via a sole road. This is where you get to savor the spectacular sights of the rice paddies along the canals as well as of the colorful and lively floating markets selling almost everything right from coffins to fresh produce. With the masts on boats, the sellers can easily attach the product samples such as fruits and vegetables, but obviously not coffins. However, kindly note that these markets operate only in morning from as early as 5 am to 11 am. Because of the timings, I actually missed a satisfying tour of these markets as I had reached here at 10:30 am. Therefore, it is advisable to book an overnight stay and explore the floating sales in the morning.
As my boat trip had allowed me to hop off on small atolls for tasting the delicious local food as well as sampling some local crafts, I actually loved tasting the coconut candy – the Mekong Delta specialty as a sweet toffee featuring coconut milk and rice. When I got to visit the factory of it, I realized that several families run this business here and that the ones present here always are eager to explain the complete production process.
One of the islands worth a visit is the adventurous Phu Quoc Island where diving and snorkeling are the major attractions although not many fishes are seen today. And yes, exploring the island via a motorbike is the best idea to implement here due to many roads here, less rainfall, and easily available maps for directions. However, the roads are quite grimy and so plan your trips accordingly by allotting sufficient time. And yes, as you pass through the muddy waters, you are sure to see some scary crocodiles. However, there is nothing to fear as the boat guide is there with you.
Life in the Mekong Delta is family serene and that the residents here are very welcoming. So, a trip here for at least once in a lifetime is really a must!
Best time to come here
During the Mid-Autumn festival or the Lunar New Year.