The Mekong Delta. The name alone already suggests its grandness. A giant river that splits into more rivers, canals and streams than one can count. It’s more than just beautiful, lush nature. It’s an area filled with economic activity and Vietnamese culture, bustling with people from dusk ’til dawn.
So we took out two days to explore this region, hoping to find out more about life on and around the Mekong Delta.
With an area of over 30.000 square meters, the Mekong Delta offers a lot to explore. Most of the delta consists of rice fields, making it one of the ‘rice bowls’ of Vietnam. About 30% of the country’s crops are grown there.
Since we only had two days to experience this bustling region – and I just couldn’t figure out how to best visit it on our own – we decided to once again book a guided tour with Sinh Tourist.
We were expected at the Sinh Tourist office at 8 in the morning. A three-hour bus trip later we arrived in the city of Ben Tre where – after a quick bathroom break – we boarded a motorboat.
For over an hour we cruised through the beautiful rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta until we arrived at a coconut farm. There we were shown the process of making coconut candy and then got to taste some tropical fruits while people sang some traditional Vietnamese songs. It probably couldn’t get more touristy than this.
The tropical fruit didn’t really fill our bellies, so lunch was next on the programme. After a short walk we arrived at a farm where we got fresh Vietnamese spring rolls with Elephant Ear fish -weird mean looking thing-, fried spring rolls, and all kinds of other delicious food. Yum!
A short Tuk Tuk ride later, we were back at a smaller canal where we were led onto a small hand-rowing boat. Add some conicals hats and it was picture perfect Mekong Delta. Sadly it only lasted about fifteen minutes so it was more a tourist attraction than anything else. Still it was one of my favorite moments of our trip.
And then it was back on the bus and off to check into our hotel for the night. We stayed at the Vanphat Riverside Hotel **** which was nothing special but nice enough and clean. There was also the option to stay at a homestay but we forgot to ask for it while booking which was pretty stupid of us.
Dinner that evening was also at the hotel and we once again got a variety of all kinds of foods with of course rice as the main ingredient. I wouldn’t have wanted anything else – being in the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam.
After dinner, we had the option to head to the Ninh Kieu wharf in Can Tho or just go relax at the hotel. We obviously chose the first one. This was the perfect place for an evening walk as there was basically nothing around the hotel. Every day Can Tho has a night market where people sell all kinds of things. It’s not big at all but it’s nice to just check out some crafts. On the wharf itself many locals gather to enjoy the atmosphere. It’s definitely worth it to go check it out.
The Cai Rang Floating Market starts off really early in the morning, so accordingly we got up early to go see the biggest and most colorful floating market of the Mekong Delta. When I heard ‘biggest’, my mind was immedialy making it ‘gigantic’, especially since the Mekong Delta encompasses such a large region. But I must say I was quite disappointed. There weren’t that many boats selling goods and all I could see were the orange lifevests of tourist boats. Bummer. Maybe we were already too late after all. So either go earlier, or don’t expect too much of this part of the excursion.
Luckily there was an unexpected extra activity included in the trip to wash away the disappointment of the floating market. Our guide took us by bike through villages to a closeby Mangrove. Even to his surprise there was some sort of exorcism ritual going on where a woman was trying to replace the devil by the tiger spirit. It was quite a sight to behold and very weird to witness.
And then it was back on the bus, direction Ho Chi Minh City. Along the way, we made one more stop; Vinh Long Market. This was a very large market which seemed to cover an entire village center. Mostly it was just food being sold but I’m sure you could find whatever you wanted if you just looked for it. I was sad we didn’t have more time to discover it all. It was pretty special and it appeared to be the least touristy place we did on the entire tour.
While the Mekong Delta area is so big, most of the tours head for the same places. So the autenticity of it all fades a bit when you’re surrounded by hoards of tourists. Yet, it’s still an area you can’t skip when travelling Vietnam. If you’re able to work it out, I can only recommend going without a tour so you can experience it better. But even in group, it’s worth it. And then Sinh Tourist definitely is a safe option.
Sinh Tourist offers two-day trips to the Mekong Delta every day. We paid only about 44 dollars for this trip (Booked it the evening before departure which made it cheaper). This price included a night at a four-star hotel, one lunch, one dinner, one breakfast and of course all activities (except for the bike which was 50.000 dong).