Mekong Delta Travel Guide
An important agricultural region centred on the last gasps of the Mekong River before it passes into the ocean, the Mekong Delta is often passed over by many travellers on tight schedules. If you are looking for a break from big cities like Saigon, spending a few days here will remedy the situation, as its many canals, peaceful farmland, and honest people will set your soul back in balance.
Start your cultural tour of the Mekong Delta by paying a visit to Vinh Trang Temple. An impressive complex sitting on five acres of land in the town of My Tho, it has served local worshippers since 1849. Notable for its large stone Buddha images (which differ notably from what is seen in Thailand) and a courtyard filled with potted and manicured trees, it is a stunning place for photography enthusiasts.
This well-kept Buddhist temple also serves as a sanctuary for children in need – to that end, feel free to donate what you can before departing here for your next sightseeing stop.
Ong Temple is another Buddhist hall of worship that is well worth a look while travelling in the Mekong Delta. Situated in the town of Can Tho, it features Chinese Taoist architecture, making it stand apart notably from the previously mentioned temple.
Walk amidst incense smoke as you check this temple’s artifacts, altar, and an ornately carved statue of political luminary Ho Chi Minh. Want a glimpse into your future? Consult the resident fortune teller, who is said to have psychic abilities.
With many structures in Can Tho constructed countless generations ago, it is probably the prettiest town in the Mekong Delta to wander around. During your time here, though, don’t miss the chance to explore the Binh Thuy Communal House.
Around since 1893, much of the home remains in its original condition, with plenty of antique furniture around that will take you back to a simpler time in this country’s history. The house is still inhabited and takes a 20,000 dong entry fee, so make sure you have small change in your wallet before making your way over here.
End your time in Can Tho by taking a wander around the Quang Duc Pagoda. An impressive monastery that is home to numerous monks, you’ll be charmed by its peaceful nature during your visit. Within, you’ll find a room upstairs that is home to an embroidered representation of the Buddha, while lower floors are home to a number of decorations created by elaborate beads.
While it can be hot in the afternoons, visitors not wanting to be crowded out by other tourists are advised to visit at this time. With fewer people around, one of the monks will be able to give a tour that will do this place justice.
Most people who visit the Mekong Delta do so by going on one of many boat tours offered throughout the region. Typically departing from the town of My Tho after taking a van ride from the nearby city of Saigon, these tours wind their way through the rivulets that surround the many islands in the Mekong Delta before the mighty river finally reaches the South China Sea.
Along the way, you’ll get to tour a few of the many farms which dot the landscape. From coconut to bananas to rice, you’ll quickly see how the Mekong Delta is the ‘breadbasket’ of Vietnam. Through the whole trip, your guide will explain the history and the significance of this area to the country, making it a can’t miss experience during your time in Vietnam.
Depending on the tour you book, one of your stops may be at Sau Hoai’s Rice Noodle Factory. One of the flagship production facilities for one of Vietnam’s best-loved brands of noodles, you’ll learn in intimate detail how workers and machines convert the region’s trademark grain into the thin, melt-in-your-mouth strands you’ll come to love.
We mentioned the last part because, at the end of your tour, you’ll get a chance to partake in samples of the finished product.
Some boat trips will also take you to the Cai Be Floating Market. While those envisioning a place similar to what is found in Thailand will be disappointed, those who come with an open mind will get a chance to enjoy locally made coconut candy, freshly harvested tropical fruit, and even snake wine.
If you have the chance to pick one of several itineraries, pick one that has you arriving early in the morning, as this place can get unreasonably busy as the day wears on.
Want to watch the locals do their shopping away from throngs of tourists? Make for Sa Dec Market, which is located in the town of the same name. They don’t hold back here – traditional animals like poultry are butchered in a fashion unseen in the western world, and there are market stalls which actually sell de-skinned rat. They also sell the usual assortment of fruit, veg, and common everyday goods, which will help settle your stomach if you sensitive to the things just mentioned.