The Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is Vietnam’s breadbasket. It is possible to grow two or even three crops of wet rice each year. The fertile soils support orchards, vegetable farms, coconut groves, and sugar cane. The Delta rises from the nine tributaries of the Mekong River that form it. This area grows over one-third of Vietnam’s food on less than one-tenth of its land.
The highlights of the Delta are the timeless scenes of river life – markets, villages, farms, and fishing.
See also: Map of the Mekong Delta
Getting There & Away
The quickest way to get to or from the Delta is by bus or hydrofoil from HCMC. The most pleasant is by slow boat from HCMC with a switch to a powerboat to navigate the narrow canals and tributaries, or ride by bus to the north end of the Delta and then switch to the powerboat.
There is no airport in the area, but that may be changing. HCMC tour agencies are the easiest way to arrange a trip through the Delta, lasting one day to one week or longer.
If you go by bicycle you are in for a wonderful trip once you are clear of HCMC and its environs. You can even put your bicycle on some of the local boats – you’ll have to to get across a few of the tributaries.
Where to eat & Nightlife
In Ben Tre, try the hotel restaurants at Hung Vuong or Dong Khoi.
There are many more choices in Can Tho, the largest of the Delta’s cities.
There are a few 24-hour restaurants and some bars, but generally speaking they roll up the sidewalks and tributaries at about .
The main highlight in the Delta is the floating markets. The stationary markets, especially in Can Tho, are good for souvenirs, but the floating markets are much more interesting and fun. There are three floating markets in the Can Tho area. They are best reached by boat, but some can be reached from the road.
One of the crafts that permeates the Delta is basket weaving, so most tours will stop at least once.
The best, if not the only, ways to get around are boat and bicycle. You will miss a lot in a bus, and the area is much too large to cover on foot. Most of your travel will be by motorboat. You’ll likely dock across from your hotel and re-board the boat to continue your journey. There are local buses if you leave the boat and want to travel by other means.
The Delta is a bicycler’s haven. It’s flat and not too heavily traveled. Many hotels and street-side kiosks will rent bikes for $5-$10 per day.
You can rent cars for about $25-$30 per day. Ask at your hotel. Vehicles are not well-maintained and your fellow drivers are nuts.
Scooter drivers are glad to offer you a lift for a few dollars.
What to See & Do
The two places I suggest spending time (other than actually on your bike or in a boat) are Ben Tre and Can Tho.
The town is completely surrounded by water. It is an island known for its coconut groves and fruit orchards, and also as the site of one of the worst bombings in the War during the Tet offensive of 1968. This is the town a US military spokesman said we would “have to destroy in order to save it” since it was infilitrated by the Viet Cong.
There is a town market on the north bank, and hundreds of boats on the south bank. This is one of the best areas to explore on a bicycle or even on foot. You can also try the local rice wine at the factory just west of the bridge.
Can Tho is a large city with about 500,000 people. It has canals, floating markets, land-based markets, Good restaurants, and rice paddies everywhere you look. The main reason people come here is to take boat trips into the surrounding Delta and explore towns and markets. Still, there are a few things in Can Tho to occupy a day or so.
Check out the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the Can Tho Museum; each has its own charms. The market along the waterfront is also interesting in its variety and for its people-watching. You can stop by the Ong Pagoda (late 19th century) and take a walk around its somewhat gaudy interior.
See also: Map of the Mekong Delta
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