After hiking around Black Virgin Mountain & Cao Dai Temple, I decided it might be nice to go out on the water for a day. Mekong River Delta, home to a maze of rivers, swamps, and floating markets, is the perfect place to go boating and experience an agricultural community. This river starts in the Himalayas and flows through four other surrounding countries before reaching Vietnam. The murky brown color of the water comes from the soil it washes up so the river itself is actually quite clean. A majority of Vietnam’s rice and fish is transported to other areas from Mekong Delta, so it’s vital to the country’s economics. Not to mention its jungle-like aesthetic makes it the perfect place to go on an adventure!
Mekong Delta can easily be reached from Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s cheapest to go on a tour. I booked a group tour through Get Your Guide for around $28 and found it to be quite helpful. I got to explore parts of the jungle, eat delicious Vietnamese food, and see some of the smaller islands. One is even named after a unicorn! I was fortunate that the other people on my tour were kind and welcoming. I met one woman from Colombia that introduced me to her sons that were around my age (mid-twenties). We all awkwardly laughed. No vacation is complete without awkward random encounters!
Sailing on the Mekong Delta was amazing. The weather was humid but fortunately there was a cool breeze. No matter which direction you look there is a lot to see:
I highly recommend buying a nón lá (leaf hat) from the market during your trip. Initially I thought that wearing one of these as a tourist would be embarrassing, but the hats are ideal for the weather here. During warm days they can shield your entire face from the sun, and during rainy days the droplets will slide off them keeping you completely dry.
After a while of sailing we stopped at Ben Tre, the capital of one of the largest provinces in the Mekong Delta, and got to explore some of the beautiful scenery on foot. There was a tiny wildlife preserve with crocodiles, porcupine-like creatures, and other exotic animals. A woman came with a colony of bees and showed us how honey was made (fortunately the bees didn’t seem hostile). We also learned how coconuts were used to make desserts and got to try some coconut jelly! It was so delicious.
Besides boats,the main form of transportation around the muddy banks of the Mekong Delta is by horse. Although a lot of residents of Vietnam own motorbikes, they seem to be quite challenging to ride around here. That is another reason why I recommend booking a tour. Though it can take days to see the entire Mekong Delta here, just a day trip was enough for me.
I said it once but I’ll say it again: Vietnamese Cuisine tastes amazing and severely underrated. For lunch we had a buffet that included elephant ear fish (see top picture), shrimp, omelette, rice, crackers, fresh fruit, and coconut jelly. This kind of meal is simple but very filling. Since I don’t eat meat, I informed the chef and they were able to accommodate my request. If you’re looking for a fancier dinner, you can always order one back in Ho Chi Minh City!
I visited a similar place to Mekong Delta in Cambodia last year called Kampong Pluk. It also has a floating economy, amazing fish, and many similarities to Vietnam. I recommend checking out both because their cultures are slightly different. I can’t pick a favorite because both of them were an entirely unique experience.
Here are some other things I recommend checking out in Ho Chi Minh City:
- Notre Dame Cathedral – A historic church with beautiful architecture.
- Ho Chi Minh City Hall – An iconic landmark of the city,
- Cafe ZONE 69 – I found this place during my morning run and thought it was hilarious. I have no idea if it still exists or not, but it’s in the heart of the city.
- Ho Chi Minh Opera House – I sadly didn’t have enough time to go, but I’d love to see a show here in the future.
- Jade Emperor Pagoda – One of the prettiest temples in town.
I only stayed 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City, but that was enough for me because I got to see and experience a lot of different things. In my next article, I will be talking about my experience in Hanoi and how it differs from this city. As always, please stay tuned for more updates!