In Southern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is home to myriad attractive destinations and unique ecosystems that deserve more than a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City.
The River Mekong unravels into nine rivers, creating the fertile Delta as nowadays. Daily life in the delta flows with the ever-changing waters, rice fields are dug as the waters recede and fisheries thrive throughout the annual flood. Considered as the “Rice bowl” of Vietnam, Mekong Delta River brings the magic inside that appeals to all those who have come to this immense land.
The Mekong Delta is completely focused around the water, which explains why the only way to navigate this region is by boat. You will see rice paddies, fruit orchards, and floating markets, Buddhist temples and family houses clinging to the river’s banks.
What to See and Do in the Mekong Delta
Browse Cai Rang Floating Market
The Mekong Delta is considered “the rice bowl of Vietnam”. It yields a large amount of fresh produce for the country. During the trip to this region, you will see flourishing agricultural trade at one of the most famous floating markets – Cai Rang. This floating market is a magnet for tourists with cameras.
Cai Rang floating market is one of the biggest ones in Vietnam, which is about 6km from Can Tho. Boats are filled with fresh watermelons, tiny dugouts carry pigs, and barges overflow with pineapples. The local hawkers with conical hats on their heads yell their prices whilst packing greasy foil packets. A Cai Rang appears in front of travelers authentically like that.
Coming here early in the morning will give you a chance to see the best of the market. For the best vantage point, you can make use of a traditional boat to go through the market, and watch locals trading the produce with each other.
Live a local life with a Family in Vinh Long
As a major transshipment point, Vinh Long has many geographical advantages over other areas of the Mekong Delta. This is the place connecting the mainland with the offshore islands of Vietnam. Surrounded by rivers and canals, households in Vinh Long can take advantage of the flow to earn their livelihood. Currently, many local families in Vinh Long welcome visitors, giving them the opportunity to experience local life in the most authentic way.
The houses are located right by the river, surrounded by orchards laden with tropical fruits. You will be provided with a basic but separate, clean, private room to stay during the days you stay here. Enjoying local meals with the hosts and observing the daily life and listening to them share about culture, cuisine,… this is really not an easy-to-find experience for any tourist when visiting Vietnam.
Walking through Sa Dec Port
Sa Dec port used to be a stop for long cruises and was also the former patrol base for the US. Today, Sa Dec port is a bustling commercial port, but only receives a moderate amount of visitors because it is oriented to maintain the local feel.
It has tree-lined streets, houses with French-styled terraced architecture with pastel-colored facades. One of the most impressive houses is the Huynh Thuy Le Old house, once the residence of a wealthy Chinese family. Huynh Thuy Le is the son of the family, he fell in love with the French writer Marguerite Duras, and he was the one who inspired her to write the famous autobiography The Lover.
Although this place is just modestly located next to the busy river, it provides locals and travelers with a variety of rich fruits and vegetables.
Visit Sam Mountain in Chau Doc Town
Chau Doc is a busy town bordering Cambodia. The telltale sign of this town is Sam mountain rising up in the middle of green rice fields. Although only 182m high, this small mountain still dominates a large flat landscape. Climbing to the top of the mountain, you can admire the entire delta to Cambodia.
Since the main religion is Buddhism, along the way you will find brightly painted temples and tombs.
On the way to the top of the mountain, you will see a trail of dinosaurs made of ceramic. On the peak, there is a watchtower made of tin, where the Vietnamese army monitors the border with Cambodia.
If you want to watch Chau Doc sunrise on the mountain peak, rest assured that along the way, it has been lit up to help you climb the mountain easily. After the sunrise experience, you can have breakfast at the small eateries along the way to refuel before going down the mountain.
Admire the Mekong Delta on renovated rice barges
Barges that were once used to transport rice have now been converted to carry tourists. A good example is the Bassac fleet, which has been converted into a cruise for tourists to travel along the Mekong Delta for one or two nights. With this barge, you can observe the lives of local people passing by very realistically.
On the barge, there are many finely sculpted handmade vessels. The comfortable cabins are decorated with unique local textiles. As the cruise travels along the river, you’ll see local villages and floating markets, and your on-board guide will also explain the history of rice barges that appeared frequently along the route.
Visit Tra Su Mangrove Forest
Located in A Giang territory of the Mekong Delta, Tra Su Mangrove Forest is a forested area characterized by almost year-round dryness. The most suitable time to admire the forest’s beauty is at the end of the year, amid the sunny season, when the water level rises and the territory transforms into overwhelmed woods, which is very convenient for tourists to enjoy the scenery on the watercraft. The most beautiful month of the year is from September to November.
Tan Lap Village
Tan Lap floating village is a famous ecotourism site in the Mekong Delta. This place is a flooded forest, located deep inside the heart of Dong Thap Muoi. Covered by a cool green forest system, you can visit the floating village at any time of the year, but the most beautiful time is the floating season from August to November. This time witnesses the vigorous growth of both fauna and flora, blooming lotus ponds with sweet fragrance. For an extra USD2.5, tourists can stroll on the lifted path through cajuput backwoods or take a boat along the channel.
Best Time to Visit the Mekong Delta
The best time to travel to the Mekong Delta is from October to March, when the river water level is highest, ideal for boat markets and sailing trips. This is also when life on the river becomes the busiest. January to March offers the best weather in the whole of Vietnam, despite prices being quite high at this time due to the recent Lunar New Year and shops and restaurants closed for a few days.
To book a hotel with the best price, you should visit the area in late September since it is the end of the rainy season, when the trees are lush and the crop is at harvest time.
Festivals and Events in Mekong Delta
The followings are some famous festivals and events in Mekong Delta that travelers should not skip during their trip:
Ok Om Bok Festival: At the end of November, Khmer ethnic people celebrate Ok Om Bok festival on the full moon day. At this festival, locals celebrate bountiful harvests, express gratitude to the gods for their blessings, dance and play folk games. Each village will host its own small festival and gather around the local temple.
Tet Holiday: The Lunar New Year from late January to early February is the biggest holiday in Vietnam. Cities and towns are flooded with red flags và yellow light, a symbol of good luck. This is also the busiest time in the Mekong Delta, when you see boats filled with yellow flowers.