Most flights to Vietnam land in its chaotic business hub – Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon. Now we can definitely forgive you for staring at postcards with picture-perfect Vietnamese panoramas of rice paddies while you are surrounded by Saigon’s nightmarish traffic. These postcards seem to be selling a bucolic haven, enveloped by mist, that’s nowhere to be found. The only ‘mist’ you’ll see here is a result of the fumes arising from thousands of motorbikes on Saigon’s busy roads. If you have over a week or two, it’s possible to experience idyllic Vietnam in all its glory at Halong Bay, Phu Quoc, or Mui Ne/Phan Thiet. If not, then a Day Trip to the Mekong Delta is the perfect way to get a taste of the gorgeous Vietnamese countryside.
A 2-hour drive through suburban Saigon leads to My Tho, an important market town and the gateway to the bustling floating markets of the Mekong Delta. The Mekong River, known as The Mighty Dragon or The River of the Nine Dragons in Vietnam, is the life-line of six countries in Asia (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and China). It passes through temple cities, lush tropical forests, swamps, rice plantations and boasts of some of the richest and most fertile landscapes in the world.
Our guide Nam, a young university student, gave us a short geographical lesson before we boarded a small boat that took us to Unicorn Island, named after a Chinese mythological figure. We sat on a wobbly bench under a thatched roof as we sampled Vietnamese honey tea. Regular tea is flavoured with the juice of kumquats (a small citrusy fruit, similar to limes) and sweetened with home-made honey.
Bee pollen might be the newest health fad to hit the western world, but here in the backwaters of Vietnam, it is generously spooned into every cup of tea. We sipped on the tea and munched on the accompanying candied ginger, banana chips, and peanut bars as we observed the ritual being repeated for dozens of tourists around us.
Moments later, we were treated to a rather weary song and dance routine by local musicians before being ferried to a neighbouring island, known as the Kingdom of Coconut. Ben Tre Island boasts of over 45,000 hectares of coconut trees, so make sure you carry an insect repellent spray or wear a mosquito repellent band when you venture to this part of the country. Every day hundreds of tourists visit this island, so the thrill of stumbling on something new is almost non-existent. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun.
We visited a local coconut factory and tried our hand at making coconut candy. We failed miserably, so we drowned our sorrows in snake wine- yes that’s a thing! Don’t believe us? Take a look
But we didn’t stop there – our guide treated us to a calorie-laden lunch comprising fried fish, scrumptious Pho, and Vietnamese rice-paper spring rolls. Once we were suitably stuffed, we decided to go on a bike-ride through the Vietnamese country side (yes, that’s how smart we are). As you might have predicted we were panting for breath in no time 🙂
Towards the end of the day, we decided to go for a Sampan cruise on one of the tributaries of the Mekong. We stepped into our boat tentatively but started enjoying the ride almost as soon as our boat started making its way past lush palm trees and stunning green foliage. Day trips such as this are bound to feel ‘touristy’, but one look at the brightly-coloured boats bobbing along the calm waters of the Mekong made us fall in love with the river. We’ll definitely be back for more….
- A Day Trip to the Mekong Delta is the perfect way of getting a taste of the Vietnamese countryside if you only 1 day to spare. If you have 2-3 days, make sure you visit the floating markets in Can Tho as well.
- We booked our Day Trip to the Mekong Delta with Impress Travels – their staff arranged everything well and promptly responded to all our queries within hours over email. Highly recommended.
- The tour costs anywhere between $35-65/person depending on group size. Private tours cost $75/person.
- We opted for a private tour – this gave us the flexibility of customising the tour according to our taste. Moreover this ensured we did not feel rushed at any time.
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31 thoughts on “Saigon Diaries – A Day Trip to The Mekong Delta”
This looks incredible! I’ve seen photos of the Mekong Delta before, and every time I think, ‘this is somewhere I’d like to visit.’
Seems like such an action-packed day – and all that food looks so delicious! Your photos are so inspiring, too. 🙂
Thanks Katie – The Mekong Delta is great, albeit overwhelming. Both of us loved that side of Vietnam 🙂
I love the pictures. We did Hoi An, Ninh Binh and Hanoi after flying into HCM. That city was bananas, traffic wise, as was Hanoi. We’ll do the Mekong when we retured to Vietnam as we loved the country.
Thanks for sharing. I’ll tweet through Triberr.
Hey Ryan – glad you enjoyed perusing the photos. HCMC’s traffic is nuts – it’s just unbelievable. You must escape to the Mekong Delta when you make your way back to Vietnam 🙂
I SO regret not getting to see this beautiful part of Vietnam when I stayed in HCMC. It looks amazing!
Oh Karisa, you would’ve loved the Mekong Delta. Make sure you spare 2-3 days and visit the floating markets the next time you’re in HCMC 🙂
Snake wine ?? Really .. Who drinks that ??
I got goose bumps , even looking at the pic
Sonal we tried it – it’s definitely not as bad as it sounds 😉
OMG! Stunning pictures. Love the hat on VID! 😛
SAvi whr is the bag from ?? Lovely colors!
Hey Rashmi – the bag is from a flea market in India. As for the hat, it remained stuck on Vid’s head till we were in Vietnam 😉
Lovely post! I read your blog from time to time to get ideas – and I had a question for you guys. Husband and I are planning on a 17 day holiday in October to either SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam/Indonesia if time allows OR Africa (Egypt, Safari somewhere…maybe South Africa?) …and we can’t decide where to go. I really wanna go to Egypt but i think hubby is more inclined towards SE Asia. You guys have been to both…which do you prefer? I don’t think you guys have blogged about your Pyramid trip thought, right? Just want an opinion from someone who’s been to both places recently!
I would love to see a Pyramids post as well!
Hey Ash – we’ll put together a post on Egypt sometime soon. I have to warn you though – the Pyramids are definitely not our favourite historical site in the world 😉
Hey Naima – the choice depends on your budget. South Africa can be quite expensive while South East Asia is quite cheap. If you guys are travelling on a low budget, choose Cambodia and Vietnam. Both countries are gorgeous and have so much to offer while being affordable.
Looks like the perfect day trip from Saigon. I think its important to get out of the big cities from time to time to really experience and see what life is truly like for the locals. Taking a trip on the Mekong Delta certainly shows what local life is like. While I think the food looks delish, I’m not so sure about that Snake wine.
Jen the snake wine was ace too 😉 You’re right, it’s definitely important to get away from big cities and towns every once in a while. The experience is even richer in countries like Vietnam where the contrast between urban and rural ways of life is vast.
Great idea to take a private tour ! I hope to go to Vietnam one day.
This looks like a great day excursion
Thanks Freya. Hope you make it there soon – it’s an amazing country 🙂
I AM PLANNING FOR A TWO WEEK TRIP TO VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA SO CAN U SUGGEST WHAT NOT TO MISS
OR DO U HAVE A ITINERARY FOR THE SAME IT WILL BE REALLY GREAT..
Hi Pradeep- you can read all our posts on Cambodia and Vietnam, including itineraries, suggestions, packing tips and more here :
I love your vietnam posts, I will probably be visiting HCMC in the near future and your writing+photo’s are making me so excited to go!
Thanks Jennifer 🙂 HCMC is an amazing assault to the senses – a beautiful one 🙂
It’s perfect, I live in Singapore and I have been to HCMC, there are always such good deals to HCMC I was looking around for something to do and found your post, yay! I am a huge fan. I will definitely book my tickets soon.
So happy to hear that Madhavi – hope you have a great time in HCMC 🙂
Ahhh, these pictures and stories totally take me back to our own day trip to the Mekong Delta. Yes, touristy for sure, but a must-do experience! In your fruit picture, have you seen the dark red one on your left anywhere else in your travels? They sell them at the local market where we are living (Laos), but they look imported and are labeled “Australian apples”.
That’s exactly what we felt – a bit touristy but totally worth the experience 😀 We have had that fruit in some other countries in South East Asia too 🙂
Welcome to Vietnam! Yeap Mekong Delta should be the must – see destination in a trip to Vietnam. If you have more time and the allowed budget, I recommend you should choose the itinerary of some sampan (just basic, no air – conditioner) on Mekong River. It will bring you hands – on experience and feel like living as a local.
Congratulations on your exciting trip to Vietnam and especially the Mekong Delta. I also came here and found that it was a very peaceful place, friendly people. If you have come to Vietnam, this is the destination you should not miss. Thanks for your interesting article.
You’re welcome 🙂