Mekong Delta Vietnam Travel Guide and 60 seconds tips video

Mekong Delta Vietnam Travel Guide and 60 seconds tips video

 

Getting to the River of Nine Dragons

The Mekong Delta, meaning the “River of Nine Dragons” is an area in South West Vietnam, where numerous canals and rivers meet the mighty waterway of the Mekong River.

Graves in the middle of rice fields

Graves in the middle of rice fields

We took an early morning day trip from Saigon and were driven south to towards Ben Tre where our Mekong Delta trip would start. Getting there was a long journey, over 3 hours but nevertheless interesting looking out the windows as the countryside gets more tropical and lush. We passed lots of rice fields which had graveyards right in the middle of the fields. It’s a Vietnamese tradition to keep their ancestors close to them. Remembrance is very important part of their culture the graves are also positioned centrally in fields to bring their crops good luck.

Floating fishing village on the Mekong

Floating fishing village on the Mekong

The Mekong River starts at the Tibetan Plateau passing through a total of six countries to the South China Sea in Vietnam, it’s the longest river in South East Asia.

 

Mekong River Trip

Mekong_Delta_getting_to_the_boat

At the small town of Phú Hưng (south of My Tho) we boarded what can only be described as an industrial open top tuk tuk that whisked us on a bumpy ride through the countryside to where our boat was waiting. We both kept getting whacked by large banana plant leaves!

School kids wave to us at this local school

School kids wave to us at this local school

Coconut palms and harvested rice fields

Coconut palms and harvested rice fields

Propaganda poster says something like "Joint efforts to build a new countryside promoting synergy that accelerates rural development"

Propaganda poster says something like “Joint efforts to build a new countryside promoting synergy that accelerates rural development”

On the way to the river we passed all sorts of interesting things, Garth spotted this propaganda poster, you can’t escape these communist messages even in the remote countryside. We passed loads of children on their bikes heading home after school who were so friendly shouting ‘hello’ and ‘what is your name’ to us, obviously keen to practice their English.

Our luxurious Mekong Delta River cruise boat

Our luxurious Mekong Delta River cruise boat

Our fabulous Mekong boat with new friends Chloe and Cheryl

Our fabulous Mekong boat with new friends Chloe and Cheryl

We had no expectations what our boat would be like, so it was a welcome surprise how luxurious it was!  It was just the 4 of us and our guide for the day, perfect apart from the temperature which was ridiculously hot so our conical hats and and extra shade were essential for the day. We set off down a small canal where we would join the Mekong River Delta and make various stops along the way.

The view from the front travelling down a narrow canal

The view from the front travelling down a narrow canal

The mighty Mekong River Delta

The mighty Mekong River Delta

Mekong_Delta_boat_on_river_2

A barge laden with coconuts

A barge laden with coconuts

Eyes are painted on the fronts of the sampan boats

Eyes are painted on the fronts of the sampan boats

A barge with massive pile of soil

A barge with massive pile of soil

The Mekong has the appearance of chocolate milk and is just like a motorway there’s lots of activity here where boats zip up and down filled with all sorts from coconuts and fruit to building materials. Some of the barges and sampan boats were so heavily laden, their produce was almost touching the water!

 

Making Bricks

Brick factory on the Mekong

Brick factory on the Mekong

So when we were told our first stop was to visit a brick factory, we weren’t exactly full of enthusiasm, but it turned out to be quite a fascinating visit.

Brick factory worker taking a nap

Brick factory worker taking a nap

Kiln and rice husks used for fuel

Kiln and rice husks used for fuel

Bricks are made from clay dug from bottom of Mekong, put into machine to make blocks and dried in the sunshine. A massive walk-in kiln fired by the husks from rice is used for fuel, it looks like sawdust. The kiln is then bricked up and the fire lit, the bricks are cooked for 10 -20 days.

Worker removing the coconut husks

Worker removing the coconut husks

Piles of coconuts waiting to be sold on

Piles of coconuts waiting to be sold on

Charcoal was also made here by burning coconut husks. The coconuts were bagged up and sold on, every part was used, nothing was wasted.

 

Snacks in the jungle

Phil and Garth on our bikes

Phil and Garth on our bikes

Further down the Mekong another stop where we got on our bikes and cycled through the dense jungle to see some Delta villages in the countryside.  It was great fun cycling along village lanes, passing sugar cane groves and fruit orchards we saw exotic looking things growing like dragon fruit, jackfruit and pomelos. The jungle paths were lined with coconut and banana trees with massive leaves we kept having to avoid, but thankfully the Mekong Delta area is nice and flat.

Phil cycling to a Delta village through the jungle.

Phil cycling to a Delta village through the jungle.

Some local snacks in the jungle

Some local snacks in the jungle

Snacks in the jungle

Snacks in the jungle

Time for some jungle snacks! Hot tea and fruit that we dipped in a chilli and shrimp shavings dip, such a weird combination, it tasted like it sounds, let’s say an acquired taste!  Our guide told us locals love this as a daytime snack. We loved how they used an empty coconut shell to keep the kettle hot.

 

Rice bowl of Vietnam

Rice noodle factory

Rice noodle factory

The Mekong Delta area has miles of flat flood plains, where the land is fertile, rich in nutrients making the region the most prolific in the country for agriculture. They can have 4 rice harvests annually and the region produces 60% of Vietnam’s rice needs, that’s why it’s often referred to as “the rice bowl of Vietnam.”

We visited a rice factory to see how rice noodles are made.

Rice noodle factory

Rice noodle factory

Rice sheets dried on bamboo racks

Rice sheets dried on bamboo racks

The process starts with rice and water mixed and left for days to create a sticky rice paste. The rice mixture was then passed through a machine that rolled it into sheets and cut into 3 metre lengths. The sheets are then dried on racks. Now we finally know where the pattern you see on rice paper comes from – it’s the bamboo racks.

Racks outside where the rice paper is dried in the sunshine

Racks outside where the rice paper is dried in the sunshine

The racks are left to dry in the sunshine, and finally put through a paper shredding machine to create the long noodles, this factory made 500 1kg bags a day. What struck us was how basic the factory was and that it must be back breaking work using these traditional methods of production with no modern machines. Phil thought the hygiene seemed questionable, but suppose ultimately it’s all cooked.

 

Cottage Industries

Garth striking a pose in a Delta village

Garth striking a pose in a Delta village

A family home

A family home

We then cycled to a rural home to meet a family and discover more about their life. It was quite a privilege seeing inside their modest home and meeting the husband and wife team who earn a living with their cottage industry of making crispy rice paper cakes. They served us hot tea and gave us a rice cake to try, such nice hospitality.

Inside the family home

Inside the family home

Open plan living in the Mekong Delta

Open plan living in the Mekong Delta

Smiles all round!

Smiles all round!

Phil making rice paper cakes

Phil making rice paper cakes

Phil making rice paper cakes

Phil making rice paper cakes

We then watched the mum make her paper cake, before letting us have a go! Phil really enjoyed it, because he loves cooking and trying new things, it was so unexpected getting to try it out for ourselves, Phil was told he did a better job than Garth – Obvs!

The rice paper cakes are then dried on large racks, finally cooked over a grill and then taken to local markets to sell.

 

Tropical Canals

Boarding a small boat

Boarding a small boat

The most picturesque part of our Mekong Delta trip was the short sampan boat trip back to our main boat. We got to cruise down a narrow canal with gorgeous tropical scenery it as a real highlight of our day, just relaxing whilst looking out for various wildlife on the waters edge.

The tropical canals of the Mekong Delta

The tropical canals of the Mekong Delta

A cool group shot

A cool group shot

 

Lunch at Mango Home Riverside

Dining room of Mango Hall

Dining room of Mango Hall

Back to Mekong and another yet another stop in the Hàm Luông area of the Delta this time for a 5 course meal at the Mango Home Riverside. A delightful place with beautifully kept gardens attracting loads of butterflies, we enjoyed wandering around. They also run eco-friendly accommodation.

For lunch we had Sweet and sour Bun Soup with Chicken, Steam Tiger prawns in Coconut milk, Fried Tilapia fillet with lemongrass, Stir fried pork noodles and a Chicken coconut curry with carrot and potatoes – all delicious!

An old tuk tuk for displaying flowers

An old tuk tuk for displaying flowers

There were loads of different butterflies

There were loads of different butterflies

 

One last river trip to Ben Tre

Travelling back to disembark

Travelling back to disembark

Back to the boat we were presented with some welcome cold towels and got to enjoy fresh fruit and a cold cocktail for one final cruise back down the Mekong Delta to our final destination of Ben Tre where we disembarked for our long journey back to Saigon.

One last look back at the Mekong River Delta

One last look back at the Mekong River Delta

Riverside buildings of Ben Tre

Riverside buildings of Ben Tre

Lessons in Vietnamese

Lessons in Vietnamese

On the way back to Saigon our guide passed the journey time by giving us lessons in Vietnamese which was fun. Look at how many different ways they spell the same word Ma – they all have completely different meanings, which means it’s very easy to offend someone without the correct pronunciation!

It was an unforgettable and unique day trip, despite the long transfer times, we so were glad we did it as the area we visited was authentic and unspoilt by tourism. The Mekong Delta was also the perfect way to end our grand tour of Vietnam, we’d been so luck to see so many different sides to Vietnam from the street food of Hanoi, war-torn Hue, colourful Hoi An, dramatic landscapes of Ha Long Bay to the motorbike honking streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam gave us a slice of life that was completely different to our own, that we’ll remember and reflect upon, it easily ranks as one of our best holidays!

 

Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Mekong Delta Tips

Phil and Garth on the Mekong Delta

Phil and Garth on the Mekong Delta

  • Tip #1: Be prepared for heat and lack of shade, so take your hat and drink plenty of bottled water.
  • Tip #2: If you’re prepared to leave Saigon early at 5am go see the big floating markets of Can Tho or  Cai Be.
  • Tip #3: Take a spare memory card, as there’s tons of photo opportunities here!
  • Tip #4: Do try all the local food – what have you go to lose?
  • Tip #5: Best time to go is winter November – February, it’s dry and still very hot.

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Mekong Delta Vietnam Travel Guide and 60 seconds tips video

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17 Comments

  1. David
    14th April 2017

    Reading this post reaffirms that this was the main part of Vietnam i missed on my trip there. While I did cross the Mekong a few times, visiting the delta looks like fun and floating down it looks great. I thought you had to do it as a 2 day trip so was surprised that you did it in 1. That’s good to hear for those with precious time.

    Reply
  2. Stuart Forster
    12th April 2017

    Sounds like a super trip. I love the fact you bring your inspirational journey to life with words, photos and video.

    Reply
  3. Siddharth and Shruti
    9th April 2017

    Such a lovely insight into the daily life in Mekong. As usual, love your photography. The dining hall at the Mango Home riverside looks cute!

    Reply
  4. Oana
    8th April 2017

    Guys, it seems like you had a great time on Mekong delta. I love all your posts about Vietnam and I am seriously thinking to spend the Christmas and nye in there. The pictures are gorgeous as usual, you managed to do so many interesting things and learn more about the culture from the locals.

    Reply
  5. Only By Land
    8th April 2017

    First of all I must say all your photos are incredible, I love how detailed they are, it’s almost like being on the Mekong Delta. Important tip about water and wearing a hat, I think I’d go for a typical Vietnamese hat whilst out there! The Vietnamese language lesson must have been an interesting experience too.

    Reply
  6. Annalise
    8th April 2017

    Wow what an amazing trip! The Mekong Delta was one of the things that I didn’t get to do when I was in Vietnam but really wanted to. It looks like a really cultural experience and an opportunity to learn so much. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  7. Scarlett Begonias
    6th April 2017

    That coconut water must have been so refreshing since it was so hot out on the boat. The water looks exactly like chocolate milk, great description! I will definitely be adding these to my list, especially that amazing rice noodle factory. Love it!

    Reply
  8. Viktoria Kuzmenko
    6th April 2017

    What a great job you’ve made by taking this trip and sharing your experience! Hope to follow your way someday:)

    Reply
  9. Carmen Baguio
    6th April 2017

    I love seeing how things are made. It looks interesting to see the process behind the noodles and rice cakes. What a beautiful place! Pinning for later!

    Reply
  10. Paul and Carole
    5th April 2017

    Great post. The cruise looked a fascinating trip, getting close to nature and the local families. Would love to have this experience. Thanks for sharing, have pinned for future reference. #feetdotravel

    Reply
  11. Angie (FeetDoTravel)
    5th April 2017

    Oh we definitely intend to do a cruise down the Mekong Delta, and you sure packed a lot in! I didn’t realise how complicated their language is, but then again, it has borrowings from Chinese and that is equally as confusing, I can see us getting a lot of things wrong (but hopefully not offending anyone!). Thanks for all your tips, not just this post but your Vietnam series. Pinned for when we visit #feetdotravel

    Reply
  12. Urska from sliva
    5th April 2017

    Love your video and photos. Looks like you really had an amazing trip.

    Reply
  13. ThriftyTrails
    5th April 2017

    Now I know why rice paper always has that pattern. I was always curious but never looked into it. Thanks for clearing up that mystery!

    Reply
  14. Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)
    4th April 2017

    That Vietnamese lesson cracked me up. It’s the very reason I quit even trying to understand… 😉 Hard to believe all of that was a single day trip! Seems like you could have filled a week. As always, the photos are awesome, and your trip makes us jealous and inspired, all at the same time. Well done, gents!

    Reply
  15. Travel Lexx
    4th April 2017

    Wow you guys had such an awesome day trip! We did the Mekong Delta trip too but I think we only did the tropical canals and Mango Home (pretty sure we ate there). You guys did some fascinating stuff and learned a lot about the culture as well as had a great opportunity to meet some locals! And very impressed with your Vietnamese and translating those propaganda posters 😉 Brilliant photos as usual and I want to go back and experience some of the cool things you guys got to do!

    Reply
  16. Jenn
    3rd April 2017

    This looks like a super cool day trip! I love taking a day to explore nearby areas like this when traveling. It’ s such a great way to branch out. It is so cool that you got to see and experience the rice noodle making! Unlike Phil I’m not much of a cook, but it would be so cool to learn how to do stuff like this! The Mekong Delta looks wonderful!

    Reply
  17. Cat
    2nd April 2017

    Really dig the video! And amazing pictures. LOVE THIS

    Reply

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