The Mekong Delta or “Vietnam’s rice bowl” is located in southern Vietnam. This vast maze of rivers, swamps and islands is home to floating markets or houses and villages surrounded by rice paddies. It stretches from Ho Chi Minh’s city limits southwest to the Gulf of Thailand. Wherever you will go in this area: Boats are the main means of transportation but it also is a lot of fun to experience the countless islands, the lush green nature, the many animals, the tasty fruits and all the small villages on two wheels. Due to it seasonal flooding, the best time to visit the delta is during dry season from December to May.
How to get there?
The best way to enter the Mekong Delta is via nearby Ho Chi Minh City or Can Tho which is the biggest city within the delta. Busses run regularly and countless tour operators offer trips from one to three or four days.
We really enjoyed our short trip through the Mekong Delta and there are two highlights which we would like to share with you. First of all we highly recommend to take a trip to Cai Rang floating market close to Can Tho. This market is the biggest floating market within the delta and also the most original one. Make sure to get there early to get the proper experience. It is best between 5 – 7 am. We also had a magical time visiting Rung Tram Tra Su, a forest close to Chau Doc at the border to Cambodia. The 850-hectare forest is home to 140 types of flora, 70 species of birds, 11 types of animals, 25 species of reptiles, and 23 kinds of fish. The whole forest lies in the water so you need to board a boat to explore it. A nature lover’s dream.
How long to stay?
We decided to book a three-day tour through the delta as it was the most convenient way to also cross the border to Cambodia and get all the way to Phnom Penh by boat. In case you consider to book a tour you should at least go for the two-day option. The first day was not too good and you will probably visit the floating market close to Can Tho on the second day – do not miss this trip. In general we are not big fans of the tour as it sometimes felt more like a sales event and we were pushed in and out of attractions leaving us little time to explore the surrounding like we would have wanted to. In case you have plenty of time we recommend to take 3 to 4 days to explore the delta on your own. It might be a bit more expensive than a tour, but it sure will give you a better experience.
Where to stay?
Our tour (55 EUR per person) included two nights in a hotel. Some tour operators also offer to stay at a homestay during the first night. We spent the first night in Can Tho and the second night close to the Cambodian border in Chau Doc. Both cities offer a big variety of accommodation so you will definitely find something suiting your needs and budget. There are over a dozen towns in the delta with facilities for tourists. Some of the cities are only rarely visited as they are not on the way to anywhere, but this probably will only benefit your experience. Other good places to explore are My Tho (boat trips), Ben Tre (fruit orchards), Cao Lanh (for bird lovers), Sa Dec (river scenes and flower nurseries), Vinh Long (more boat trips) or Ha Tien (boat to Phu Quoc).