The Mekong Delta area of Vietnam – a region consisting of 12 provinces south of Ho Chi Minh City – offers exotic scenery and limitless exploration opportunities to foreigners and Vietnamese alike. Exploring this area is effortless enough. While Vietnamese usually choose local transportation methods such as bus, scooter, and bike to visit “hidden”, less commercial spots, foreign tourists not that familiar with the language, customs and price could easily pick an organized tour from hundreds of tours sold at the backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City (Bui Vien, De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao).
I’ve tried both. Twice I registered a day-trip tour to Vinh Long and invited my Dutch boss/colleague to join because they wanted to see a different side of Vietnam besides the rather Westernized Ho Chi Minh City. Another time, I went to Can Tho and An Giang with my co-workers totally by ourselves. To be honest, each option has its ups and downs, but I will choose going on my own over an organized tour anytime.
However you choose, there are some common, worthy activities you should certainly try when in the area.
1. Floating market
Since this area is called the “Mekong Delta”, lives of the residents here revolves around this river and thus, their markets are obviously also located on the river. Each province in the region has its own market, but some more famous ones are Cai Be – Tien Giang, and Cai Rang – Can Tho. Every morning, when the sun still hasn’t risen yet, they have gathered on their tiny boats, loaded with all types of goods and food, and the trading began.
Since this area is famous for various types of tropical fruits, the most sought-after goods at those floating markets are fruits, exotic ones to most foreigners that WordPress doesn’t even acknowledge their names – mangosteen, jack fruit, durian, dragon fruit, star apple, sugar apple, etc. The price is amazingly low.
2. Fruit orchard
But if you want to witness the real origin of those fruits, the many fruit orchards open to public are the place for you. Besides visiting, they let you eat the fruits there straight from the trees as well. And the orchards are excellent photography materials.
3. Have lunch at one of those orchard while listening to folk music.
The meals are incredibly cheap, although you might not always find it appetizing. Most dishes are fish, and some weird veggies. The folk music is not very pleasing to the ears, if you didn’t grow up in Southern Vietnam.
4. Visit a traditional workshop
It could be a coconut candy workshop, a rice paper workshop, a honey farm. You may be dropping your jaw “a what workshop?” That’s the beauty of it, visit and you’ll know.
By the way, I just realized I never officially said where I came from. From the early posts where I wrote exclusively about U.S. destinations, you may have the impression that I am American, a recent immigrant at most, judging by the grammar mistakes and unnatural expressions in my writing. I am actually 100% Vietnamese, born and bred in the Northern city of Hai Phong, 100 km from Hanoi – the capital. After 3 years of college in Elizabethtown, PA, I returned to Vietnam and lived in Ho Chi Minh City – the self-claimed gem of the Orient,
I am telling you all this just to make a point: to me, all those workshops are exotic as hell too.