Mekong Delta Tour

The Mekong Delta conjures more romantic visions than the reality of the place delivers.

hot take: While not a ‘must-see’ highlight, we enjoyed our time in rural Vietnam getting a glimpse of life outside the cities. (2.5 stars)

pro tip: Lower your expectations and roll with the experience and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Floating down the Mekong River, Vietnam in traditional canoes.

A vast low-lying expanse of land at the southern tip of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is over 15,600 square miles (40,500 sq km). It is the terminus of the Mekong River (the world’s 12th longest river) which begins in Tibet before passing China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and ending in Vietnam. The area is well known for its diversity of life (over 1,000 unique species) as well as for providing the economic engine that originally powered southern Vietnam. Visitors today are treated to a rural throwback (especially when day tripping from congested Saigon) where life moves with the river.

Traditional scene of the Mekong River in Vietnam.

For most people, visiting today involves boarding a tour bus in Saigon. We took a 20ish person group tour with Vietnam Adventure Tours which cost $20 each for a 8a-5p guided tour including hotel pick you and drop you off as well as wifi on the bus. We were again lucky to have the indomitable "Mr. Foo" as our tour guide (who was funny, authentic, attentive, and spoke the best English of any tour guide we had in 5 countries in SE Asia…in fact, he was the best tour guide period that we had in our first 6 months of travel).

After a 1.5 hour drive through the Vietnamese countryside, we arrived at Vinh Trang pagoda (the biggest pagoda in Mekong Delta). While the site itself felt more touristy than authentic, at least there were bathrooms. It was also a good learning opportunity about how the different religions are accommodated in this communist country (since communists are traditionally not know for their religious tolerance).

The journey continued to the village of My Tho, where after a boat crossing of the Mekong River and enduring a very awkward signing performance, we were treated to a sampling of tropical fruits, honey tea, and honey wine. They also had a special surprise in a 20 ft (6 meter) python.

After the tasting, we toured a coconut candy shop (the coffee coconut taffy was especially outstanding) and Matt drank cobra liquor (it tasted like burning).

After that, we climbed into an ‘authentic’ small boat to be paddled along the water coconut canals. While this definitely felt more like theme park ride than a glimpse of the past, being on the water was enjoyable. We ended the tour with a seafood feast (that was actually pretty good by tour standards) before making our way back to Saigon. While it was not the best tour we had ever been on, it was a great way to gain exposure to rural Vietnam while making some lasting memories.