Our time in Vietnam was full of memorable activities. But there is one day that is particularly memorable and that’s our trip to the Mekong Delta. I always want to see as much as possible when visiting a new country, so wanted to see the Vietnamese countryside as well as Ho Chi Minh City. A day trip to the Mekong Delta was an ideal way to do this, whilst still being back at our city-centre hotel by the evening.
I’ve added some info at the bottom of this page detailing how you can book the same (or a similar) tour if you’re interested.
The day started early, with a 7.30 pickup from our hotel. Our tour had only one other couple on it – a lovely couple from New Zealand – so there were no additional pick ups to make and we headed straight out to the countryside.
The journey took around 90 minutes but there was plenty to see out of the window, including many Vietnamese coffee shops full of hammocks and small shops by the side of the road. The majority had corrugated iron roofs like these pictured below.
We arrived in Cái Bè which is where our tour began. Here we were fitted for cycles (a tall one for me!) and left to enjoy coffee and pineapple juice for ten minutes in a traditional Vietnamese café whilst the boat was loaded for our trip.
It was evident that this area is well off the tourist trail. Menus were only in Vietnamese and everyone else there was local. I loved it! But I was also grateful for our guide who was able to translate for us when ordering our drinks.
Exploring the Mekong Delta
With our boat ready, we all got on board ready for the adventure.
The Mekong Delta is huge. I don’t think I’d anticipated just how big it is. On our full day tour I felt like we only saw a small portion of it, but we kayaked and cycled around 35km in total!
We took the large boat down a wide section of the delta lead us to the start of our kayak experience. Lee even had a go at being captain!
I always thought I was a decent kayak-er…. turns out I was most definitely the weakest in our group! Although the other couple had a double kayak, so it wasn’t entirely a fair playing field. I also kept stopping to take photos… like this one (how cool was Lee’s kayak!)
Kayaking so far in the 30 degree heat was definitely a workout! Thankfully the sun wasn’t shining too much in the morning, or else I think the heat would have been unbearable!
After kayaking for around 5km and only having seen one other kayak of three tourists we met up with the big boat and reboarded. We went a short distance to a small selection of boats, which our guide explained acted as the local markets. These floating markets and a few riverside stalls, were the main local shopping area.
To the untrained eye it wasn’t obvious that these boats were markets. Many were also the family’s home. The riverside area here was crowded with buildings – it’s obviously the place to be if you’re trying to sell your produce!
Our tour included a stop off at these un-touristic markets (I understand some of the much larger floating markets such as Cai Rang can attract 500-700 tourists a day!). The boat we visited was full to the brim with mango, lychee, papaya and jackfruit – which I’d actually never had before! All of it was fresh and local produce.
We even got to taste a sample platter each.
On your bike
After purchasing some fruit we were back on our way, this time to the shore to start our cycle ride.
The lush greenery was a great region to explore. The sun even came out, giving me unusual tan lines on my arms for the rest of our holiday!
The only downside to the tour was that there weren’t enough stops on the cycle ride. We were passing through the cutest places and whizzing on by.
There were children bathing and playing in the river, small houses, larger villas and huge jackfruits growing all over the place! Not to mention amazing flowers and pretty scenic paths. We did stop for a water break by this pretty impressive temple though.
We stopped off for lunch at a very traditional little Vietnamese cafe, which served amazing Pho. I think its the first time I’ve ever eaten at a place which doesn’t have running water in the toilets. It was that rural! The cafe had great food and was certainly an experience I wont forget for a while.
It was great to be eating right by the Mekong Delta. Almost a surreal experience given we’d been at our city centre hotel just that morning.
After lunch it was a short cycle back to the cafe at which we’d started our day. We enjoyed a refreshing coffee and pineapple juice before going to the shop across the road to buy drinks for the journey back to Ho Chi Minh. Amazingly, cans of local larger worked out to 17p!
The trip back in our air conditioned minibus saw the heavens open thanks to crazy storms. I don’t recall seeing so much rain fall in such a short space of time! Thankfully in our mini bus we were fine, but I did feel sorry for many locals and tourists on their scooters who had to shelter from the rain or, in places, wade through the flood water on the road!
Which tour to choose?
There are many tour companies offering excursions from city centre hotels out to the Mekong Delta. Tours range in length from half a day to multi-day. Some tours include additional attractions such as the chu-chu tunnels, so it’s good to have a clear idea of what you want to see on your tour.
After researching many different tour options I opted for the cycling and kayaking tour. The main attraction wasn’t the activity, but that we were able to see much more of the region and away from the tourist traps.
You can visit the Mekong Delta for as little as £12per person. But be aware, that many of the cheaper (<£20) tours are likely to only take you to places packed full of tourists and you’ll have to pay for extras (lunch, drinks etc).
On our trip, which cost £66.50 per person, everything we could possibly want on the day was included – bottled water, coffee, lunch, fruit snack at the market, use of the bike, kayak, air-conditioned mini bus with driver, a big boat for use on the river and our fantastic tour guide Chau Le. The only extra was the tip at the end of the day.
Let me know if you’re heading to Vietnam and book something similar!