The Mekong Delta is the rice basket of Vietnam. Here are the classic landscapes of watery green rice paddies interlaced with brown muddy canals and fingers of the mighty Mekong River seeking their outlet to the sea. Here are picturesque little villages whose people work the fields, creating the third largest exporter of rice (after Thailand and India) in the world. Many tours to Mekong Delta include river cruises that will reveal these timeless landscapes, where farmers have been cultivating and harvesting rice much as they have throughout the country’s history.
Many of the companies specializing in Mekong Delta travel with river cruises are based in Ho Chi Minh City. These are generally day excursions, utilizing flat-bottomed boats that are open to the air with a canopy for shade and bench seating. They generally stop for shopping and tours at little villages along the way. Other stops during these kinds of tours to Mekong Delta include visits to orchards, honeybee farms, honey wine distilleries, and candy makers. Many cruises visit the famous Cai Be floating market where hundreds of farmers and fisherman pull their sampans up to the shore to sell their fruits, vegetables, rice, and daily catch. Sometimes, cruise passengers will disembark for an excursion in narrow canals via traditional sampans.
One stop that many cruises make is at one of the country’s loveliest pagodas—the Vinh Trang Pagoda, built in 1849. Since this is the greatest pagoda in the southern province, most tours to Mekong Delta include it on their itineraries. Close to the border with Cambodia, this pagoda boasts some Angkor architectural influences. Much Mekong Delta travel will include the countries of Cambodia and Thailand, as well as Laos. Some Mekong River cruises go through all four of these countries in deluxe small ships with only 20 to 40 passengers. They generally follow most of the course of the river for about a week, disembarking in the Mekong Delta at the end of the cruise for tours of Vietnam.
Mekong Delta travel will also reveal some beautiful beaches, many with luxury hotels and resorts complete with full service spas. The towns of Pan Thiet and Vung Tau both have a number of beautiful beach resorts. Additionally, there a many islands off the coast in this region, and several have become very popular with tourists seeking an idyllic tropical paradise.
No visit to this region is complete without tours of the attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, admiring its elegant boulevards and French colonial architecture and visiting its fine museums. Some tours of the city even include a trishaw ride through the marrow lanes and alleys of the old quarters. This is the largest city in the Mekong Delta region, and was (as Saigon) the capital of the former South Vietnam. If a river cruise through the delta is not your cup of tea, you will find that there are great cycling tours in this region, and the scuba diving off the coast is excellent. Other attractions include the enormous underground complex of the Cu Chi Tunnels, remnants of the American Vietnam War, located a bit north of Ho Chi Minh City.