The Mekong Delta Travel Guide - The Mekong Travel Guide
The Mekong Delta is one of Vietnam's main tourist attractions. The delta lies 50 miles south of Saigon(70 km). In the Mekong Delta, tourists can do many excursions around its canals, where floating markets are still the place where locals exchange goods.
If you come with me, I will show you a sneak preview of the Mekong River's Delta. I will also give you some travel tips and recommendations.
There are two ways to visit the Mekong Delta. One is on an organized tour. The other is on your own.
To Book a Mekong river cruise around the Mekong Delta before departing to Vietnam, you can go to your local travel company, or search the internet for Mekong Delta Travel. We are Vietnamese travel agencies will offer a better price. If you are not confident with internet deals, you can wait till you get to Saigon. Any travel agency in the center of Saigon, will organize a tour for you. More or less all agencies offer the same tours, but you should compare prices and services before reserving. But the best way & save your time you should book the tour with us. Peace of mind then you go. If you book with a Vietnamese agency, you will need to be flexible. Do not get upset if there is a change of plans, changes happen all the time in Vietnam. If you book a hotel, and are brought to another, ask for a money refund to your guide.
If you go on an organized tour of the Mekong Delta, a guide will pick you up at your hotel in Saigonfirst hour in the morning. You will get on a bus, and after a short journey you will get to My Tho. You will be brought to your hotel, where you will leave your bags. After a while, you will get on a mini bus and will go to the port of My Tho, where you will get on a tourist boat.
The boat tour will take you on some of the small canals of the Mekong Delta.
During the boat tour you will visit some of the floating markets on the river Mekong. These markets are quite authentic. Nothing to do with the tourist floating markets you can visit in other countries in the region.
Although some vendors will approach tourist boats and offer some drinks or souvenirs,
The original population of the area belongs to the Khmer ethnic. Ethnic Vietnamese arrived relatively late, in the 19th century. Because of the Vietnam-Cambodia dislike, there is still some tension between the two ethnic groups. In the area there are also people with Chinese and Cham origin.
The construction of the canals in the Mekong Delta started with the control of the area by the Nguyen Lords.
The biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta is called Phung Hiep. Markets open at 5 am and are open till 11 am. This is one of the reasons I recommend a stay of at least two days. The only way to visit one of these floating markets is staying in the Mekong Delta area, waking up early and taking one of the boats first hour in the morning. The Delta is too far from Saigonto visit one of the markets if you do not sleep here. If you do a one day excursion, you will only see the canals. Markets will be already closed by the time you get here.
The Mekong Delta became famous worldwide during what locals call the anti-American War (the Vietnam War, elsewhere). During the war time the Viet Cong Army had a base here called Xeo Quyt, in the Rung Tram forest. This forest is crossed by a canal. Tall trees, grass and vines surround the canal. During your boat trip you will cruise through this area.
Local people in the Mekong Delta are farmers and fishermen. Many of them build their houses on the river banks, with different materials they find.
Some of the houses have cages with fishes under them. Fishermen feed the fishes, and when they are big enough they are sold to city merchants.
The region of the Mekong Delta is the third rice producer in the world. The orchards of the region also produce the majority of the fruits sold in Vietnam.
The tropical fruits season is rather short. In Vietnamfruits are not picked untill they are ripe. Farmers pick the fruits and sell them to wholesale dealers in the floating markets. Most of the fruits are cultivated during the South's rainy season, from June to September.
In the Mekong Delta are cultivated most of the flowers bought throughout Vietnam during the New Chinese Year's celebrations.
Two other famous floating markets in the Mekong Delta region are the Cai Rang and the Phong Dien. Farmers from the region bring their goods, fruits and vegetables mainly, to the markets and sell them to local dealers. These dealers sell the products to shops in the neighboring towns and to wholesale dealers from the big towns.
One of the region's gems is the stock exchange floating market. South of My Tho is the "Dau" market were over 3000 companies are traded. Ask a local guide to take you to this otherwise difficult to find market.
If you ever come to the Mekong Delta bring a good camera. The photographic possibilities here are immense. The fields around the canal, the local people, the floating markets, the houses around the river, you will find hundreds of opportunities to take unforgettable pictures.
If you come on an organized tour, most probably you will spend your second night in Can Tho. This city is the industrial center of the region. It is 120 miles south of Saigon(170 km). The city has a nice center with a big port, where big boats dock. Next to the port, there are some nice restaurants and good hotels. There is also a great floating restaurant, with live music. Can Tho is a great place to spend a relaxed evening.
On the floating markets you do not only find people buying and selling goods, you also find floating restaurants, floating bars, floating gas stations, and many other floating shops. Canals are here the easiest and fastest way of transportation.
In the picture you can see a local farmer with fruits for sale.
All big boats have a pole like the one in the picture. Each wholesaler hangs the goods he buys/sells on this pole. This way, people on small boats know where they have to go from a certain distance. In this case, this is a floating vegetable supermarket.
Port Ninh Kieu, in Can Tho, is the center of local activity. A ferry crosses the river from this port to the local island of Xom Chai. This island is a nice visit, specially during the sun set.
In the picture you can see a nice lady with her watermelons. The variety of tropical fruits in Vietnam is awesome.
If you take one of the tourist tours, you will be brought to some of the local shops. The most typical shops you will visit, are the vermicelli making shop and the sweet candy shop. In both cases a worker will explain you the process of making these goods. At the end of the presentation, you can buy the products. I did not find these shops of much interest, but I did enjoy the trip along the canals of the Mekong Delta.
One of the tourist sites in the Mekong Delta is the Temple of the Coconut Monk, on Phoenixisland. On this temple lived a French monk who preached a fusion of Buddhism and Christianity. He was locally famous because he only ate coconuts for more than three years. Sorry, I did not visit the place, I cannot give you more information about Phoenix Island.
During the Mekong Delta tour, we stopped in a pier, and went for a small trek. It took us to a forest. After walking for a while in the wild, we got to a nice garden restaurant. In the restaurant they had a bee farm. Honey from the region is renowned.
The region of My Tho is famous for its snake farms. The Dong Nam Snake Farm was originally funded by Colonel Tran Van Duoc in 1977 with research purposes. The farm has several of the local venomous snakes on display.
Snakes are very popular among Vietnamese, as a meal, I mean. The area of the Mekong Delta is one of the best places to taste this local specialty. You will find snakes cooked in different manners in restaurants in Can Tho and My Tho. The snake meat has the flavor of meat, but the texture of fish.
Snakes are also used in Vietnam to produce medicinal liquors. In some cases poisonous snakes are used. Bottles with snake liquor are sold throughout Vietnam as a souvenir.