The Mekong River is the 12th longest river in the world and the longest river in Southeast Asia. It flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before draining into the South China Sea. Many of the locals that live in the Mekong Delta rely heavily on the river for water and freshwater fish to survive. There is also a huge diversity of wildlife (not just fishes) that live in the Mekong region.
The Mekong Delta is only a few hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City, and is unsurprisingly a popular tourist spot in South Vietnam. I took a couple of day tours to 2 different areas in the Mekong Delta: Ben Tre and Cai Be. These are among the most popular 1-day tours from Ho Chi Minh City.
Tours to the Mekong Delta are not particularly focused on the Mekong River itself, but rather on different islands and regions of the Mekong Delta. To reach these areas, you have to take a boat along the Mekong River, so there are still some interesting sights you can take in.
Here are the experiences that you should expect when taking a tour in the Mekong Delta:
The highlight of any tour in the Mekong Delta is boat rowing, where the locals take you on a 15-20 minute sampan ride through the canals of the Mekong Delta. This is the time to relax and admire the serenity and lushness of the forests.
There are 13 floating markets in the Mekong Delta. The biggest and most popular one is Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho, an area I did not visit. The reason why Can Tho is not available as a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City is because of the opening hours of the floating markets in general.
The floating markets in Mekong Delta open at around 3am, with business peaking at around 5-6am. Since day tours from Ho Chi Minh City generally depart at 7.30-8.30am, business at the floating markets would have nearly ceased by the time you reach the Mekong Delta.
Although I reached Cai Be rather late in the morning, I still get to see a few floating market boats lingering around. The sellers hang items high up on a bamboo pole to indicate what they are selling.
I didn’t get to buy anything from the Cai Be floating market, but it was still interesting to learn about how the floating market operates in the Mekong Delta.
The Mekong Delta has its fair share of speciality treats, and any guided tour will not skip this. Due to the abundance of coconut trees, coconut candy is famous here. All tours will take you to a coconut candy factory to see the process of making the candy. You will also get to try a variety of tropical fruits popular in Southeast Asia like jackfruit, pineapple and guava.
Honey tea is a popular drink to try in the Mekong Delta. And there are also a lot of snake wine sold here too. Apparently, the belief is that infusing snakes into the wine helps to improve health and makes you and your family happy.
Overall, it is worth going on guided tours to the Mekong Delta as it may be difficult to plan your own itinerary and navigate your way without the help of a local guide. Visiting the Mekong Delta is definitely a must for tourists staying in South Vietnam.