DESTINATIONS Southern Vietnam

Mekong River Delta travel Guide and Tips

Mekong River Delta travel Guide and Tips
Written by Vietnamtravelplus

The mighty Mekong delta flows through the South West of Vietnam providing an ever-present life force to the land and people. The river is significant part of daily life to the provinces of An Giang, Ben Tre, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Can Tho, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Kien Giang, Long An, Soc Trang, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Vinh Long.

Mekong River Delta travel Guide and Tips
Mekong River Delta travel Guide and Tips

The Mekong Delta is essential for the production of many crops. The nutrient rich silt nourishes the land and provides plenty of water. The delta is the largest rice-growing region in the country but the fertile land is also ideal for growing sugar cane, coconut and many other exotic fruit varieties. The waterways are full of fish, especially the local delicacy of elephant ear fish.

Mekong River Delta travel Guide and Tips

Traveling along the delta you will happen upon the island of Vinh Long, the location of the famous floating market. Lush orchards and many local workshops surround the area. See traditional blacksmiths, coffin makers and coconut huskers at work using the river waters to assist them.

Continue along the delta towards the Cambodian border and you will find Can Tho. Can Tho is home to the magnificent stork gardens where hundreds of storks and other waterfowl all gather to roost in the afternoon.

Before you cross over into Cambodia your final destination is Chau Doc. Located at the base of the Sam Mountain this is the heart of the Khmer and ethnic communities. Discover the places of worship and unusual fish farms attached to people’s houses.

A trip down the Mekong River is like a journey through many time periods and cultures – just one long and exciting adventure.

Getting there

Airports

The Mekong delta province actually covers a wide area and there are a variety of airports that may be suitable depending on you intended destination:

The Mekong delta province actually covers a wide area and there are a variety of airports that may be suitable depending on you intended destination:

  • Can Tho International Airport
  • Phu Quoc International Airport
  • Rach Gia Airport
  • Ca Mau Aiport

Bus

In the absence of trains the Mekong Delta is well covered by multiple bus routes. The “Ben xe mien Tay” (Western Bus Station) in Hochiminh city is located 10km West of the city in An lac and serves all of the areas South of the city, including the Mekong Delta. A bus from Hochiminh to Can Tho for instance takes around 6 hours and costs $4-$7. Remember that the other areas of the Central Highland are spread around so times and prices will vary.

The majority of the buses are air-conditioned; include a small bottle of water and usually have a Vietnamese ‘film’ as entertainment (although this tends to be exceptionally loud so don’t expect any sleep).

To Do

Floating market

Mekong River Delta travel Guide and Tips
Mekong River Delta travel Guide and Tips

Visiting a floating market is a ‘must do’ if you find yourself anywhere near the Mekong delta. There is no avoiding the early start though; most markets are already in full swing by 4am.

These markets mark a traditional way of life dating back hundreds of years and are still a very important part of daily life for Vietnamese people. You are unlikely to find gifts and souvenirs at these markets though; they are primarily used for the wholesale of farming produce and other everyday items.

The boats make it clear what they are selling by hanging a sample from a pole in front of the boat. Aside from the things that you might expect to see there are also some unusual sights bobbing along the river – a pot-bellied pig, a basket of snakes or crates of chickens to name just a few.

It isn’t just fruit and vegetables that you can find on the floating markets. There are plenty of opportunities to sample some local food and get a drink as you float along. In fact the snack boats are immediately drawn to tourist boats so expect to make a few Vietnamese friends.

The best way to see the markets is to book a boat tour, expect to start at around 4am and the boat won’t wait for you if you’re late! Tours generally include a guided visit to the floating market along with descriptions of the goods on offer and a sample of some food and fruits. The tour then stops at an orchard or village and you will receive a demonstration on farming life before stopping for a local lunch.

Phung Hiep is the largest floating market on the Mekong Delta and opens from 4-nam every day. Expect to see fruits and vegetables, especially coconuts and mangoes. The shopping doesn’t stop there though; if you can sell it and fit it on a boat then anything goes at a floating market. Floating gas stations and floating restaurants aren’t uncommon.

Cai Be is another well-known floating market, thought to have been formed as far back as the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. You will witness hundreds of small boats moored to the river edge, one side for buying and one for selling goods. All of the goods have been transported from surrounding villages by raft and wall either be bought and moved over land or transferred to the buyer boat.

So even if you aren’t a morning person and have no intention of buying anything then a tour of the floating villages could still become the highlight of your trip. The excitement and hustle and bustle of the traders will certainly keep even the sleepiest of people awake.

Listen to traditional Southern Vietnamese music (Called “don ca tai tu”)

The magical sound of the Mekong Delta Folk music has recently been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Taking root from the scholarly theory in the Vietnamese Royal Courts the music has evolved in many ways but still remains true to the original rules.

Usually performed at festivals and celebrations, including Birthdays and celebration parties. Don Ca Tai Tu is also traditionally played at the Death Anniversary of the Ancestors, a celebration in honor of the dead.

The festival is held annually on the twelfth day of the eighth lunar month.

There are 20 principle songs, 72 classic Don Ca Tai Tu songs and a multitude of variations. It takes between 2 and 3 years to become fluent in the music and the technique of flow and air. Most of the songs and techniques are passed down directly with students learning straight from the master.

There are four components that must be adhered to for music to fall within the definition of Don Ca Tai Tu. Firstly; it must follow the traditional Vietnamese “long ban” structure. Secondly, it must include the musical scales and the ranges of scale of Vietnamese traditional music. Thirdly, performers must use Vietnamese traditional musical instruments. Finally professors must keep their traditional teaching by direct instruction with traditional songs.

Nowadays, although the Vietnamese culture is greatly impacted by integration, information technology and globalization, the Southern people still hold dear Don Ca Tai Tu and strive to keep the art alive.

The traditional orchestra includes the don kim (Vietnamese two-chord guitar), don tranh (Vietnamese 16- chord zither), don ty ba (Chinese four-chord lute), don co (Vietnamese two-chord fiddle), don bau (monochord) and ong tieu (flute). In more recent years the guitar ad violin have also been included.

You have to experience this music to truly understand the complexity and charm. Wherever you stay in the Mekong delta region you will find examples of Don Ca Tai Tu music, just ask your host or locals where best to go.

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