There’s something soothing about Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Just a short drive from Ho Chi Minh City, the Delta’s riverside towns, lush islets and lazy rivers will instantly make you feel more relaxed. You could easily spend weeks exploring the Delta, however if you only have a day to spare, take an excursion to the Mekong Delta’s charming countryside.
The best way to see a slice of local life and sample the Delta’s highlights is to escape the crowds and go for an eco-tour or cycling tour. Here’s what you can expect.
Beautiful boat rides
It’s about a two-hour drive from your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City to the town of Ben Tre, where you’ll have your first glimpse of life in Delta. Board a boat for a leisurely ride along the river. Along the banks you’ll see elegant colonial buildings, colourful markets, and countless homes built on stilts above the water.
Deeper into the Delta, the scenery becomes more green and tropical. Tall fronds line the banks of narrow rivers, where caramel-coloured waters carry boats heavy with coconuts and fruits to the sea or inland. It’s always a pleasure to ride a boat along the Delta’s small canals — just sit back and let the river breezes and views come to you.
Family-run farms and factories
The Delta’s rich natural resources and fertile soil make it one of Vietnam’s most productive regions. Villages here are full of family-run industries, from fish farms, to brick factories, to fruit orchards.
The province of Ben Tre is known especially for its sun-ripened coconuts. On tour, you’ll have a chance to stop by a coconut candy factory, to watch how this sticky, addictive treat is traditionally made and packaged by hand. Elsewhere, you’ll find families converting the rich clay of the Delta into bricks for new homes and buildings. Workers mould the bricks using simple machines and fire them in huge kilns set up on the river banks.
Cycling in the countryside
Hop on a bicycle. The Mekong Delta’s winding lanes, islets and hamlets are perfect for cycling. Cross over small canals, zip past tidy houses, and ride beneath tall coconut trees and blooming flower bushes. Don’t be surprised if little children rush out to say hello, or you meet families of ducks along the path. Cycling is a great way to get a close-up look at local life and appreciate the tropical beauty of the Mekong Delta region.
Visits with local residents
We Vietnamese are known for being friendly, however the people in the Mekong Delta are famous even within the country for their warmth and hospitality. Don’t leave without making a few new friends. Ask your tour provider to show you to beautiful ancestral houses, where you can learn about the owner’s life and family legacy.
People in Delta like to take their time visiting each other and sitting outdoors, enjoying cups of green tea and bites of fresh fruit. Often guests will sing folk songs or play music for each other. If you’re invited, be sure to pull up a seat and take part in this local tradition.
With fruit orchards, vegetable farms, rivers and rice paddies all around, meals in the Delta are always fresh and delicious. Vietnamese in this part of the country eat family-style, with dishes placed in the centre of the table for everyone to share.
Your lunch in Ben Tre will likely feature a Mekong classic: fried elephant-ear fish. The crispy fish flesh is rolled in dried rice paper with pineapple, cucumber, herbs and lettuce, and then dipped in tangy tamarind sauce. Cooks in the Delta prepare beautiful lemongrass curries and braised meats in claypots, and serve tasty soups, vegetables fried with garlic, and steaming hot rice on the side. Fill up your bowl and enjoy!