It’s not easy to talk about Mekong Delta without lapsing into clichés. While they’re all true, they shouldn’t put you off. Thanks to the region’s diversity, a visit to Mekong Delta, Vietnam, is so mesmerizing that there are vast options aside from well-trodden trails.
Every guidebook will tell you, Mekong Delta is a flooded world of floating markets, rustic and rugged houses, mud-coloured waters associated with noise, crowds, and shouts, where you can see piles of fruits on bustling clusters of boats or navigate through rows of coconut palms, forests of cajuput and mangrove and immerse yourself in the natural wilderness.
Boat trips and floating markets
Every so often, some guy in Ho Chi Minh City will offer a tour in My Tho, the most accessible Mekong Delta town with a two-hour bus drive from the centre, but head to Vinh Long instead for the same boat trip at Cai Be floating market without the hustle of tourist hordes. Spend the night at a homestay for an even more rewarding, authentic Mekong Delta experience. Many travellers also opt for Can Tho, home to the largest floating market, Cai Rang, and the best Phong Dien in the Mekong Delta. Nothing beats the market’s bustle and fast-paced ambience in the very early morning around 5am–6am, so make sure to visit them on time to capture the liveliness and vibrancy.
An Giang is Mekong Delta’s forgotten province, perhaps because its capital city can’t quite match the charm of Can Tho. But its remote hamlet, Ba Chuc, the site of Vietnam’s ‘Killing Fields’ from its clash with Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s, has long been a destination for visitors with a love of history. Then drop by Thach Dong Cave Pagoda in Ha Tien; in a remote border town surrounded by Khmer villages, this notable Buddhist pagoda formed in limestone mountain caves has a clenched-fist monument commemorating Khmer Rouge’s massacre of 130 Vietnamese in 1978.
A visit to Xeo Quyt Forest in Dong Thap Province will show that the Mekong Delta region can always offer more than just heaps of boats and a list of floating markets. Xeo Quyt features a blend of empty wilderness of the flooded cajuput forests and the historically strategic base of Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. Tra Su, another forest in Chau Doc town of An Giang is not only home to the immense forest of cajuput but also fosters a wide range of wild bird and fish species. Set off on a journey of serenity and float through narrow channels under a thick canopy of tall trees.
No visit to Mekong Delta would be complete without a taste of bun mam (vermicelli cooked with fish sauce broth topped with shrimp, fish, Vietnamese fish cake, slices of aubergine and chopped onions), ca loc nuong (grilled snakehead fish) and banh cong (Vietnamese cake made from green beans mixed with glutinous rice flour, wheat flour, shrimp and minced pork).
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