As part of our press trip to ITE Ho Chi Minh City we were able to choose a fam trip destination somewhere around Saigon. It was already more than 8 years ago I was in the South of Vietnam the last time so I decided to go on a Mekong Delta tour and see if I could still remember something of my trip around the world in 2009.
What is the Mekong Delta
The Mekong River is one of the biggest rivers in the world and connects almost all the South East Asian countries. It starts in Tibet and follows its path southeast to the Southern tip of Vietnam. On its way it forms the border between Thailand and Laos and pierces right through Cambodia to finally reach the South China Sea in Vietnam. Just before it reaches the ocean the Mekong River spreads it wings to a point where it is kilometers wide, forming thousands of islands of which some are connected by bridges some are not. This is what we call the Mekong Delta. As it is located not far away from it is perfect to visit Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh City.
Mekong Delta points of interest
It is really hard to tell you where to go exactly as this area is extremely vast. It is not just one place where all the Mekong Delta tourist attractions are located. As I said before there are numerous islands and I bet if you go three times in a row you would still discover new places. I have now visited the Mekong Delta twice and both times I did it on an organized Mekong Delta tour. Tours are cheap and can easily be booked everywhere around Ho Chi Minh. I am sure you can explore the things to do in Mekong Delta on your own and I reckon it would even be better, but to be honest I would have no clue where to send you to or where to start exploring this region.
Tip: if you are staying in a guesthouse but you want a tour with young people pop in at a popular hostel and visit Mekong Delta with them. Success guaranteed!
Things to do in Mekong Delta
There are numerous things to do in Mekong Delta but since the area is so big I cant really tell you where everything is exactly located and most of the things like boat trips, cooking classes and other local experiences can be done in multiple locations. There are probably thousand little islands and to me this region feels like a maze. So to make the most of it I would recommend booking a Mekong Delta tour. I know that sounds lame and I am never really a fan of these things but this is an honest tip. I can already tell you it is very touristy, but at least you are not wasting time trying to find all these activities yourself. Mind you that transportation here is very complex: not all islands are connected by bridges and to most places you have to take boats.
As also discussed in my blog about ITE Ho Chi Minh City scams are pretty common and in a place where you constantly have to haggle for prices and you know that as a foreigner you will end up paying more I again think taking a set tour is the best option to visit Mekong Delta.
Buddhas at Vinh Trang Pagoda
Make sure your tour includes a visit to this amazing temple complex. I think in fact our guide said something about this not being a temple complex but we were looking at shrines or probably pagodas as that is the name of this tourist attraction in Mekong Delta. At least these religious statues were related to Buddhism as all I could see were Buddha’s. The ‘temples’ were super detailed and make a great photo spot.
To be honest I am not a fan of looking a caged animals, but this is Vietnam, this is Asia. Western habits and believes are not the standard plus we do have tons of zoo’s ourselves so think twice before you judge. The most venomous snakes where locked up in smaller cages but there where also a lot of bigger habitats. You can also find a bunch of crocodiles and other endemic animals.
One of the coolest activities in Mekong Delta is to visit local villages. See how they live, how they sustain, what they eat and what they drink. We went to see how they make candies from coconuts, how they prepare food, have fruit plantations and how they live. I also got to drink their shots. Venomous dead snakes and other reptiles are kept in a large pot on alcohol. This strong ‘water’ supposed to make you untouchable! ;) I know for sure how locals will look like after a couple of these shots and that is not promising I can tell you. Asians and alcohol are a funny combination! :) I already tried this in 2008 but because about 40 eyes wanted to see me downing this shot I did it again. It is just an extremely strong shot of alcohol.
The bee farm itself is not that spectacular but you will find delicious honey snacks. We went to a little island where they performed a local song for us and fed us the freshest fruits right from their plantation.
We also visited a traditional house somewhere on an island. Don’t get confused with a local home this is a fancy one. The family was still living here but it was more like a little museum. To me not really interesting but according to our guide this was one of the best-preserved traditional houses in the region. Apparently one of the best historical sights in Mekong Delta.
Boat tours in Mekong Delta
This is the place to go if you want to get a picture of an older woman rowing between the green bamboos with a traditional Vietnamese hat. As I said the Mekong river is a maze and there are a ton of little water alleys where they do this. Where exactly I cant tell you. What I can tell you is that it is super touristy with one boat after another departing into the ‘wilderness’ and the experience is more hilarious than authentic. It is just one of those things to do in Mekong Delta that you can’t skip even you know it is super touristy. We laughed a lot, sat back and just enjoyed the ride and took way too many photos. We ended up doing this two times in different locations.
Floating markets are not anymore like they used to be. Back in 2009 I was able to see some amazing floating markets in Laos, Cambodia and even here in Mekong Delta. This time I was definitely unlucky as it was Sunday and therefore a little more quiet than normal. We did go out on the river that morning but basically didn’t see that much. I have seen that you could walk from one side of the river to the other as the river was packed with boats. Is it worth visiting Mekong Delta for a floating market? According to our guide it can get really busy on some days, especially before the weekend.
In and between our boat trips we ended up taking horse carts to our next destination. It was not that spectacular either but at least some diversion from sitting on a boat.
Our tour this time did not include a bike tour but back in 2008 I had a half day bike trip included in my Mekong Delta tour. Ask about it before you book, because that was great fun. You see a lot of the landscape, the local villages and you cross tiny bridges. Make sure you stay on the path or be prepared to swim with your bike! ;)
Where to stay in Mekong Delta
As part of our tour we ended up in the fabulous Mekong Riverside Boutique Resort somewhere on one of the islands. I guess you can only get there by boat and the location right on the water is superb. The river views the next morning were a perfect way to slowly wake up. Wow life in this part of the world seems to stand still and is so peaceful.
Visiting Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh on a tour is an easy way to get here. But you can also make your way here and then book tours locally. A cool place to do so is the Mekong Ecolodge. They have bike tours, river tours, cooking classes and more. Click on the link to find out more.
Is Mekong Delta worth visiting?
As you have read through my blog you find out that I am not 100% raving about all the things to do in Mekong Delta, but that does not mean I would not recommend to visit Mekong Delta. Is Mekong Delta worth visiting? Absolute yes, it is all about the experience. The biggest attraction is the landscape itself, the laid back vibe and the easy going life.
Where in the world do you find a river so wide that it forms all these islands for kilometers long? Every island is different and local life seems to stand still. People live with the pace of the river. The Mekong Delta tour is a great trip from Ho Chi Minh City.
How many days for Mekong Delta?
You can opt for a 2d/1n tour, a 3d/2n tour or even tailor one yourself. If you are with a cool group I would definitely recommend the 3d/2n tour as it is such a laid-back lifestyle out on the river. The tours bring you to restaurants constantly as eating is a big part of the journey. Chill on a boat, sit back, sip a coconut and enjoy the boat ride and the food is delicious, you will be served food, snacks and fresh fruits multiple times a day, basically at every stop.
Going to Saigon after and looking for Siagon accommodation? Take a look at the best boutique hotel in district 1 in Ho Chi Minh.
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