The Mekong Delta is a vast and beautiful region of Vietnam and near Cambodia. Only two hours from Ho Chi Minh City, this lush area is one of the most alluring stops for nature and culture lovers.
People call the Mekong Delta the kaleidoscope of tropical climate, caramel rivers, rustling forests, painted boats, eye-catching markets, and smiling people. And then there’s the unique cuisine.
Mekong Delta in glance
The Mekong Delta is the delta made up of alluvium from the Mekong River. It’s also known as Nine Dragons River, representing its 9 major tributaries in Vietnam.
The delta’s also home to stunning national parks protected by UNESCO, colourful stilt houses, olive water, lush green islets, floating fish farms, barges and motorboats, and of course the brilliant blue skies and cottony clouds of southern Vietnam.
Mekong Delta is home to predominantly Vietnamese, Cambodians, the Khmer, the Hoa (ethnic Chinese). Here you can encounter all the exotic tastes, sights, and sounds of a border town, and enjoy the soothing beauty of the Mekong Delta from morning to night.
Here’s what you can expect.
1. Beautiful boat rides
Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road. 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.
2. Family-run farms and factories
The Delta’s rich natural resources and fertile soil make it one of most productive regions. Villages here are full of family-run industries, from fish farms, to brick factories, to fruit orchards.
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 in Ben Tre. Elsewhere, you’ll find families mold the bricks using simple machines and fire them in huge kilns set up on the river banks.
3. Fresh tropical fruits
The healthy goodness of fresh fruit is an everyday part of life in Mekong Delta. Many families grow juicy rambutans, guavas, mangoes and countless other tropical fruits on plots behind their homes or along the riverbanks.
Get ready to taste some of the sweetest, most delicious tropical fruits any time you are invited into a local home. Feel free to sample as much as you like!
4. Famous floating market
Setting before dawn, the floating market is a collection of brightly painted wooden vessels selling loads of sun-ripened fruit on the water. Cruise past stilt houses and barges, see birds swooping over the palms, and boats heading to market heavy with fruit.
Make sure to visit Cai Rang – the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta – for a close-up look at Mekong Delta tradition and a bowl of hot “hu tieu” noodles or nibble away at a cold pineapple while watching the actions.
5. Amazing traditional handicraft
Mekong Delta is well-known with local craft village. The locals produce food, grow flower, make conical hat, weave textile,… for their need and trade. Visiting the local’s houses, you can learn about life and family legacy via their own words.
6. Unique cuisine
All the elements for incredible eating are here. The Mekong Delta cuisine relies heavily on fresh products which are abundant in the new land with heavy use of seafoods and unique ingredients of the region such as palm sugar, basa fish and wild herbs and flowers. The cuisine is also influenced by Khmer, Cham and Chinese settlers. This differs from the cuisine of other regions of Vietnam and Cambodia.
A must-try Mekong Delta dish is “cá kho tộ”, caramelised fish in claypot. Cooked for hours until the fish is tender and flaky, the salty taste goes perfectly with hot rice and greens.
Palm nuts from the plains around the towns are another unique ingredient. The nuts yield a clear jelly that locals mix with coconut cream and shaved ice to make “chè”. Try this sweet soup as an afternoon snack or a light dessert.
7. Charming Cambodia
As one plies the waters from Vietnam to Cambodia, Mekong Delta is bursting with life, while Phnom Penh tempts with its rustic charm. The heart of Cambodia showcases the charming, rural local life and a glimpse into pre-Angkorian architecture. And the route is full of thriving cities or rural communities or floating villages and floating markets and endless rice paddies, pagodas and temples…
Villagers bathe in the waters and trade along the banks. Men cast traditional fishing nets into the river pregnant with freshwater fish at daybreak, and, at day’s end, kids paddle around, holding large banana trunks as a floating device. Indeed, while pampered by all the luxurious material spoils one can ask for, it is the priceless warmth of the local people that makes a journey like this truly exceptional.
8. Smiling people
Vietnamese are known for being friendly, however the people in the Mekong Delta are famous even within the country for their warmth and hospitality.
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.