Mekong, Ho Chi Minh City
After visting My Tho we boarded a boat and set out to explore the Mekong Delta. It was Hogmanay we had lunch in a little restaurant on an island and the local children played us Auld Lang Syne on their traditional musical instruments. As a Scot, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with homesickness; something I thought I would never again feel. We visited an island specialising in honey products, then one specialising in coconut products. Finally we drove back to HCMC past motorcycles laden down with families and chickens and flooded paddy fields filled with ducks and water lilies.
The best part, in my opinion, of our entire stay was our trip to the Mekong Delta. We started by driving to My Tho. My Tho is a town which was founded in the 1680s by Chinese refugees fleeing Taiwan when the general of the Qing Dynasty, Shi Lang, defeated the remnants of the Southern Ming Dynasty in 1683. This town had a market which was a photographer's dream. It rests on the My Tho River.
We had only 2 days for Mekong Delta and selected Mekong Lodge as a base. The Mekong Lodge was a dream I dreamed. Lush vegetation, lots of tropical sun and rain, all about Mekong Delta in a beautiful place. I loved sitting in my room and watched boat passing by. The room was wonderful, clean and charming, especially the tree-trimmed pavilions and the tiny pigeon house shaped like boat. The food was excellent with awesome banana pancake for breakfast. Just got the recipe from resort manager and will try it soon.
All staffs were very thoughtful and courteous as everyone said. The tour around Cai Be was well organized and Mr Quang did a great job of giving us real insights into life of people here. They made my 2 day tour all excellent moments of relaxation and peace in an oasis of nature. Unfortunately we stayed only one night in this beautiful resort on the banks of the majestic Mekong River. We missed the fishing activity and the boat trip in several canals around the lodge. The lodge also has big boats for Mekong Delta Cruise. Sure, I will dream of it often and hope to come back soon!
Saigon River Express offers VIP speedboat tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels - the Mekong Delta - and jungle canal tours around Saigon. This is the service that was recommended as part of "Three Perfect Days: Saigon" in United Airlines inflight magazine and has been recommended in many other international publications. With a fleet of brand new speedboats and providing five star service - Saigon River express offers the most exciting way to see the best attractions around Ho Chi Minh City. Even a sunset tour around Saigon involves exploring narrow jungle canals with a village made of bamboo and thatch as well as visiting a spectacular floating Temple. This is definitely a must for any visitor to Saigon. http://www.saigonriverexpress.com
I went on a day-tour of the Mekong Delta with the Sinh Cafe whose offices are in the Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area of Ho Chi Minh City and it cost me 238,000 VND. We set off out of the city, south along a new toll road past rice paddy fields and got to a town called Cai Be at about 11am. We then transferred to a boat and went past what was meant to be a floating market but was just a few houseboats selling semolina root and nothing else. We then called in to a place where they make rice & coconut crisps and snacks and rice paper. We sampled what was on offer and I bought some rice crispy snack things which were very nice. We then crossed the huge and wide Mekong River, which looked more like a lake, to an island where we transferred onto narrow longboats and wore the Vietnamese conical hats. We had lunch on the island before heading to Vinh Long by boat and then back to Saigon by bus. I have to say that it wasn't the best of day trips I've ever done but it was a fairly cheap and hassle free way of seeing the Mekong Delta.
We were brought to the Quoi Son Canal where the boats lay awaiting - Four persons per boat - as we were told. Jac and I got into the boat with a French couple. It's these interesting rides with no where to go that you get to speak to people from various countries. It was interesting to hear from the couple about France and about the history of the lady who shared that she was actually born in Vietnam but left with her parents when she was three months old.
The four of us, together with our boatman, went down the canal for about 30 minutes. Very serene with the only sound coming from the peddle meeting the water.
As part of the tour, we were taken on a horse cart ride through town. The most interesting thing about this ride was that we got to see in a glimpse how people lived in this small town. There was even a school that we went past, and the students who were hanging around outside were waving and saying "Hello". I waved back and had even wanted to stand up until my wife told me not to rock the cart. Oh boy.
I experienced the Mekong River when I was in Thailand. So this is the second time going down the Mekong River. We took a day tour of My Tho and Ben Tre to see how the Vietnamese people live along the river. Some parts of the tour was recreated for the tourist, but the experience was still great.
The Mekong river starts from Tibet, before snaking along China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and then to Vietnam. This is definitely an important river for many countries.
After a 2 1/2 hours on board the bus, it was nice to reach the town of My Tho where we started our Mekong River trip.
Going down the Mekong river, we came across a boat with "eyes" on the front of the boat. It is believed that the "eyes" will help to get the boat and it's pessengers to their destination safely. This "eyes" on the boats is also practiced by bum boat drivers in Singapore.
On day 6, we proceed to Thoi Son, a town in the Mekong Delta. We got to sample fresh fruits from the orchards, learn how the local people make the famous coconut candy and also look at how they extract honey from bees. We also had an enjoyable boat trip along Mekong River and was accompanied by a very good English-speaking Viet. guide.
In the Mekong Delta tour, u get to switch from a big boat (seating capacity of over 20), to a medium boat (seating capacity of 8), and then to a small boat (seating capacity of 4 person ONLY)... and then the reverse on your way back to mainland.
There are tons of tour agencies offering trips to Mekong Delta, and I picked the recommended Sinh Cafe by the other tourists on VirtualTourist.com.
Whole day trip. Wear something light, and get something to change if you plan to go somewhere else after this trip, coz the trip will make u all sweaty and sticky. :P
River was yellowish at the time we were there (August 2006). The guide said the river would be clearer at the start of the year.
Compared with those in South America, the jungle in and around the Mekong Delta is not forbidding. Much has been cut away; people live in and near what remains, on all the larger islands and some of the smaller ones as well.
It's like, on a smaller scale, the jungle that lies between the many branches of the Amazon before, at, and after Belem.
The most visited islands are dotted with souvenir shops and stands offering Coca Cola, Lays potato chips, and Viet snacks.
If you go to Saigon, you must travel to the Mekong River just to experience what everyday life is like for the people who live in the Delta. You will see whole families living on houseboats that make you feel so humble that you would never complain ever again about your college dorm room being too small. You will see beautiful tugboats in brilliant shades of blue and red that you have never seen before. You will see boatmen fishing and kids playing in the river. A wonderful cultural experience to be had.
I highly recommend taking a side trip from Saigon down to the Mekong Delta, either My Tho or Chau Doc. Alot of the local travel agencies can book you a one day trip for only a couple of US dollars but you can't beat the experience of riding in a small boat the size of a canoe along the Mekong Delta. It is a bit of a tourist trap how they take you to several of the nearby islands off of Saigon and want you to buy items supposedly native to those specific islands like honey and coconut candy, but the experience is worth it.