For our last day before leaving Ho Chi Minh City, we decided to arrange a trip to the Mekong Delta. The region is located at the southern tip of Vietnam, and is where the Mekong River’s complex network of distributaries empty into the Gulf of Thailand.
We arranged the full day tour through A Travel Mate, having been impressed by the very positive reviews on Trip Advisor. After being picked up early outside of our hotel, we collected several other guests from their considerably fancier accommodation, before heading out of the city. In total there was six of us for one guide, which made for an ideal sized group.
Our guide gave us lots of information on the region during the two hour drive south. The Mekong Delta is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam, with its unique geography and climate providing ideal growing conditions for rice as well as many other different crops.
Our first stop of the day was at the Vinh Trang Pagoda, which is just on the outskirts of My Tho, and is one of the largest and most well known pagodas in the south of Vietnam. In total there are five different buildings, with these surrounded by over two acres of elaborate gardens.
There are three Buddha statues within the complex, including a huge Laughing Buddha. The statue symbolises happiness and good luck, and it immediately had us smiling!
We continued to the nearby ferry terminal, where we got our first glimpse of the Mekong River. The water was a very uninviting dark brown colour, and we were sure to tread carefully when boarding our first boat for the day, which took us on a short journey across the river.
After disembarking, we were taken to an outdoor seating area and treated to a performance of traditional Vietnamese folk music. This was accompanied by a platter of delicious native fruits including mango, papaya, and the more exotic flavours of dragonfruit, rambutan and longan.
The tour continued with a ride on a traditional sampan boat, along one of the Delta’s many narrow waterways. After boarding the small wooden vessel, we were each given a Non La, the conical hats that are a common sight in Vietnam. Not only did these help us fit in with the locals, they were great for keeping cool in the midday sun.
The sprightly local woman rowing our boat must have been at least seventy, but was still able to propel us through the water at some speed, while expertly dodging the thick mangroves. In fact she became even more energetic as the tour reached its final stages, and made it fairly clear that we wouldn’t be leaving the boat with giving her a tip!
The boat took us to a small honey farm, where we were given the opportunity to sample some delicious honey tea. While this was great, we were also given a small glass of banana wine, which was rather less enjoyable. Our guide then took us for a closer look at one of the bee hives, taking out one of the wooden frames to show us the bees in action.
We continued to a coconut candy factory, where we found another small local producer making the most of the region’s natural resources. The candy is a local speciality and is made by separating and cooking coconut milk. Our guide showed us the manual machinery that is used in the process, before giving us some freshly made samples. While the sweets were nice, we were more impressed by the incredibly efficient production line to hand cut and wrap the sweets ready for sale.
We were met outside the factory by a rather sorry looking horse and carriage which took us to the restaurant where we would be having lunch. It was clear that neither the guests or the horses enjoyed the journey, and this was definitely our least favourite part of the day.
Lunch on the other had was delicious. We were treated to a wide range of traditional Vietnamese dishes including locally caught fish, spring rolls and crispy pancakes, all washed down with some cold beers. This was the final stop on our tour, and after finishing our meal we took one more boat ride back across the river to the awaiting minibus.
After another long journey, we arrived back into Ho Chi Minh City at around 5pm. It was great to escape the busy city for a day, and get a sample of life in the Mekong Delta. Although not usually a fan of organised tours, we were very impressed with both our guide and the busy itinerary. While there was lots to see and do, it did not feel rushed at all, and made for a very enjoyable day trip.