The Mekong Delta is the south west area of Vietnam through which the Mekong River flows to the sea. Most of the area is flat, and floods easily, this makes it ideal to be used for agriculture; mostly growing rice, other industries in this area includes fishing. Transport networks to the area are much improved; the Can Tho Bridge (the longest cable stayed bridge in South East Asia) links the city of Can Tho with the area of Vinh Long 35km away where a ferry was previously needed. The river is still an important network to the market, difficult to access villages and linking Vietnam to Cambodia.
As the roads improve transport becomes faster, though at high tide many large vessels can be seen travelling up and down the main trunk of the river. Part of the area is home to the Khmer people from Cambodia, the remaining population is Vietnamese, either Khmer or Vietnamese languages are spoken by the local people. While having a strong agricultural growth the Mekong Delta area population has not increased, as people move out of the area to seek better jobs in the cities.
There are many tours that visit this area from HCM, and onwards to Cambodia, ranging in length from one long day return to 2-3 days. Can Tho is the largest town on the Mekong Delta and can be reached by a sort flight or in four hours from HCM by road. The bus station in the city will take you there directly, although a change from a small minibus to the large coach is required at the bus station. Buses maybe air conditioned and you pay for a selected seat, a refreshment stop on route is normal. Ask at your hotel where your nearest bus station is, there are smaller outlets across the city7 where you purchase tickets and wait for your transfer to the coach. Buses are regular and take around 4 hours to complete the 170km to Can Tho.
When in Can Tho it is easy to walk around the town, or hire a motorbike or bicycle. Along the waterfront is the indoor market, an outdoor market open opposite this in the evenings. It is a nice walk along the river bank and the Ninh Kieu Quay, there is a statue of HCM, the beautiful 19th century Ong pagoda and a kiosk to book a boat tour down the Mekong. Check the time and price of your tour, it is normal to leave at sunrise around 5-6am for the 20 minute journey to the Cai Rang floating market where the market traders rig there boats together and sell their wares, as once sold up the traders go home. Tours last a couple of hours and may visit one or two of the floating markets, the markets are smaller than in the past as road transport has improved. Beware of tout hassling you to buy a tour from them, they may even follow you to your hotel and have photos and testimonials to prove their worthy!
Can Tho accommodation is currently quite limited, although budget hotels are available. Vinh Long is another popular area, and homestays are available for those wanting to experience a Vietnamese home. It is before the stop for Can Tho on the local bus, and river tours can be joined from here also. Along the Quay in Can Tho are a number of reasonable restaurants where local delicacies such as roasted mouse, snake or the Cai Rang meat roll can be tried, and fruits such as sweet orange, jackfruit and durian.
The Mekong Delta and the floating markets are a popular reason visitors visit the south of Vietnam, and independent trip for the flash packer is easy and cheaper than joining a tour.