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A Guide to The Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Too many tourists think they can see enough of the Mekong Delta on a brief day trip from Ho Chi Minh city – but there’s so much more to it than a pagoda and a floating market. This region is home to unique ecosystems that deserve more than an afternoon in your itinerary. Read our guide to this diverse part of Vietnam to understand why.

What is the Mekong Delta?

The Mekong Delta is a network of tributaries in southwest Vietnam, between Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia. The river itself starts in the Himalayas and passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Vietnam, which partly explains why the waters are so murky.

More than half of Vietnam’s rice and fish comes from the delta region, so you can see how vital it is to the Vietnamese economy and diet. Life in the area revolves around water, from the famous floating market to the vast agricultural industries; a variety of fruits, flowers and livestock grow in the region.

What to see and do? 

My Tho

Hundreds, if not thousands, of tour groups come to this city every day, making it the most visited city in the Mekong Delta. Besides their famous floating market, there are also impressive pagodas and local orchards to visit at this city, just two hours from Ho Chi Minh City by bus. Don’t expect to find much off-the-beaten track kinds of experiences here, as the destinations are all designed for day trippers; most of the tourism in this city is packaged by the local tourism bureau.

Thoi Son island

This lush island, the largest of four in this part of the Tiền River, with about 1,200ha (3,000 acres), is crisscrossed by canals and waterways. It’s best known for its natural beauty and abundant fruit trees, including rambutan, longan and sapoche that line the shore and supply many of the markets in Tiền Giang province. You can explore the island by boat, before visiting the orchards and spending an afternoon relaxing in hammocks. The island’s historic homes are another attraction: Mr Tam’s house, open to visitors, is an exemplary model of a traditional home, with antique furnishings and a bonsai garden. To reach Thoi Son island, catch the bus from Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho, then take a 45-minute boat ride on the Mekong River.

Can Tho

Can Tho is the biggest city in the Mekong Delta region and home to the Cai Rang floating market. Here, you’ll see hundreds of boats packed with more varieties of fruits than you ever thought possible. Although Can Tho is a large, somewhat industrialised city, it also serves as the cultural centre for the surrounding rural areas. The nice thing about this city is you can get the best of both worlds: comfortable accommodations in the city centre, with easy day trips available to head out and see the picturesque agricultural communities. There aren’t the dance clubs and cocktail bars you find in Ho Chi Minh City, but the nightlife is still vibrant. It takes approximately four hours to get to Can Tho from Ho Chi Minh City by bus.

Soc Trang

Soc Trang is home to the largest population of Khmer people outside of Cambodia, which is why this city has an interesting cultural feel to it that’s different from the Vietnamese cities in the area. The best examples of Khmer culture are the Clay and Bat pagodas, both famous for their intricate designs. This city may not have many flashy things to do, but those who prefer a relaxed experience will enjoy the calm vibes here, especially in the rice paddies that surround the city. If you’re in the area around November or December, be sure to check out the Oc Om Boc festival.

Chau Doc

For those of you making your way between Vietnam and Cambodia, Chau Doc is an easy stop along the route. It’s known for its religious and ethnic diversity, which includes Khmer, Chinese, Cham and Vietnamese people. Like most of the Mekong Delta, the surrounding areas are lush with rice paddies and spectacular rural scenes. For a real treat, stay at the Victoria Nui Sam.

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