Mekong Delta, the biggest Viet Nam's rice bowl to the south of Ho Chi Minh City, is truly a fascinating destination with an incredible history, cultural diversity, stunning scenery and rich heritage. It is a landscape of lush green fields and peaceful hamlets.
The uniquely southern charm of the life along the river lies in quaint riverside towns; sample fruits bartered in the colorful floating markets or dine on home-cooked delicacies until midnight as a homestay guest. Wandering around bounteous fruit orchards and tasting a lineup of rare or strange tropical fruits or flocking to colorful flower markets and fish farms will make you astonished.
WHAT TO SEE
Ninh Kieu Pier (Can Tho)
Ninh Kieu Pier – the outstanding beautiful symbol of Can Tho city. It is famous for poetic landscapes in the daylight and the exciting atmosphere of a night market in the evening. It is located in the city center, on the right bank of Hau River – one of the two biggest rivers in the Mekong Delta.
It was originally built in the 18th century under Emperor Gia Long of Nguyen Dynasty as a berth of Can Tho market. Ninh Kieu pier now has become a tourist park situated in an area of more than 7,000 square meters. You can find the statue of President Ho Chi Minh with a 7-meter height set on a 3-meter basement. The beauty of this park becomes more splendid in the evening with a modern lighting system and attracts thousands of locals and tourists there every night. If you wish to enjoy a dinner with Can Tho’s special dishes, there are many floating restaurants surrounding. It is so impressive to have dinner and enjoy the beauty of Can Tho bridge, the largest cable-stayed bridge in Southeast Asia from Ninh Kieu Pier.
Cai Be Floating Market (Tien Giang)
You can take a boat to visit Cai Be floating market along Tien river where borders among three provinces of Tien Giang, Vinh Long and Ben Tre. Unlike other floating markets in Mekong Delta, fruit can be found everywhere and mainly from Tien Giang, such as Lo Ren star-apple, Tan Lap pineapple, orange, tangerine, etc.
As one of the largest wholesales floating market of Mekong Delta, the Cai Be is usually crowded from the morning to the afternoon. The earliest traders can join there from 3:00 AM and it is often crowded from 5:00 AM. If it is the first time you go there, you should notice that goods on boat are advertised on high poles called “cay beo” for buyers to easily recognize what they wish to buy among hundreds of such poles on the river. It is clear that the boat is considered as traders’ mobile house and Cai Be River becomes actually an essential and inseparable part of their routine.
Cai Rang Floating Market (Can Tho)
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Mekong Delta is visiting the floating markets there and Cai Rang Floating market is the destination you should not miss. It is located on Can Tho River which is around 6km from the city center and near Cai Rang Bridge, Cai Rang district. There are two options to reach this destination from the city center. The first way takes 15-minutes driving to Cai Rang pier then rents a boat along the Can Tho River; another one takes 30-minutes to take a boat from Ninh Kieu Pier.
The Cai Rang floating market, one of the largest and the most famous floating markets of the Southwest area, specializes in wholesale fruits and agricultural products. It usually opens from 4:30 AM – 5:00 AM before dawn and lasts until around 10:00 AM. You should get up early to experience the whole atmosphere of the market and get an idea of how water commerce operates in the Mekong Delta. Among hundreds of boats gathering in the market, you can easily recognize the kind of goods each boat sells based on a special and interesting notice sign. The boat owners will hang a sample of goods on the top of a long bamboo (called Cay Beo). For example, if you want to buy a pineapple, you just need to catch which boat has pineapple on the pole in front of the boat. Besides fresh fruits, you can also buy garden tools and crafts or enjoy Vietnamese breakfast dishes like rice noodle “Pho” or “Hu Tieu”. It is an unforgettable memory when you can manage to use a chopstick and enjoy a bowl of Pho while paddling along the river. Do not look for a bowl of noodle hanging on Cay Beo since they cannot do that, take advantage of your noise to identify where its delicious smell is from.
Phong Dien floating market
Phong Dien floating market is considered as one of the must-visit destinations if you want to get the real experience to link with the locals here. It is around 17km far from Can Tho city in the southeast and around 32km from Can Tho pier to go here. All agricultural products, goods and services including fresh fruits, daily life’s tools, fisheries instruments or food are mainly found here. It is totally different from other floating markets in the Mekong Delta.
Additionally, there are mobile petrol stations, mobile sewing shops or machine repair shops on boats which make here to be the most unique among other floating markets in the Mekong Delta. It is less crowded than Cai Rang floating market. It usually opens from 4:00 AM and most crowded at around 6-7: 00 AM. After the rush time, there are still people in the market until the afternoon. This characteristic makes it different from other floating markets. You had better to visit the Cai Rang floating market if you wish to enjoy the quite atmosphere of local commercial in the floating market.
Ba Cong orchard garden (Can Tho)
A trip to the Mekong Delta would be incomplete without a visit to Ba Cong orchard garden; the most famous and biggest one (area of 2ha) in Can Tho. It lies along Long Ong canal, Long Tuyen ward. At first, it only provided fruit to markets and wholesalers in the Mekong Delta. In 2005, the owner decided to invest and renovate the orchard towards ecotourism and up to now, thanks to the development of tourism of the area, this enormous garden has become one of the most attracting destinations in Can Tho with a variety of fruits such as Lo Ren star apples, Hoa Loc mango, Nam Roi pomelo, purple mangosteen, plums, durian, rambutan, etc…
There are 5 small garden cafeterias and one large dining hall serving tourists daily. In particular, the garden is also the place where traditional music of South Vietnam – “Đờn ca tài tử” is performed for guests. Another activity is to go biking around the cool and quiet village to enjoy the fresh air. Don’t forget to challenge yourself with a “specialty” of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam – bumpy bamboo bridge (or Monkey Bridge).
Ba Chua Xu Temple (An Giang)
A visit to Ba Chua Xu temple might be interesting for those who want to discover Vietnamese religion, another hidden beauty of Vietnam. It is located on Sam Mountain (Nui Sam), Vinh Te Commune, Chau Doc. Many stories are around its origin without any authentication. Basing on the most popular legend, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, locals found a lady statue which might be dated from the 6th century in the forest. Dozens of strong men could not move it but nine virgin girls as warned in a dream of a child. The villagers then built a temple to worship in the lady’s honor with the hope that she would bring them health, luck, happiness as well as better crops.
It has three floors with blue tiled roofs and four-square curved corners. Its festival is annually organized from 23rd to 27th April of the lunar calendar to wish and ask for fortune and health. Today, Ba Chua Xu temple is not only a sacred place of pilgrimage but also attractive sightseeing in An Giang.
Hon Khoai Island (Ca Mau)
Hon Khoai Island, one of the most beautiful and famous landscapes of Ca Mau, has still remained untouched hills and forest with many spacious types of animal and plant. It is located in the South of Ca Mau and about 15 kilometers from the mainland. In fact, there is a group of five islands named Hon Khoai, Hon Doi Moi, Hon Da Le, Hon Sao, and Hon Tuong, among which the Hon Khoai is the largest one. Locals here usually call it as Hon Khoai (Potato Island) because it looks like an enormous potato.
Apart from wild natural landscapes, visitors also have a chance to taste many types of algae cooked into delicious dishes. For biology lovers, it absolutely fascinates with lots of species of plant and birds. Another highlight is the lighthouse with 318-meter height built by French colonialists in 1920.
WHAT TO EAT
Mekong delta is home to different tropical fruits such as durian, coconut, banana, pineapple, dragon fruit and so forth.
Trai Quach – (wood apple)
Usually, a seven-year-old quach tree will start producing fruit, which looks just like a gray plastic ball, with many tiny dots on it. When it matures, trai quach spreads a faint aroma, although not as strong as trai thi, which is still enough to fascinate and attract people. Place to eat: Cau Ke District, Tra Vinh
“Đuông” is the larva of beetles, often lives in the inside top soft part of areca species trees. They are marinated in fish sauce for a while. Then cover with wheat flour before being fried; eating with lettuce and tomato. Previously đuông is a popular dish; however, it has nowadays been valuable, rare and expensive. The reason is that it is difficult to find them. Even old farmers who have been working on the farm for ages can only enjoy this dish two or three times in their lives. Place to eat: Ben Tre
Dong Tam Snake Farm (Tien Giang)
A visit to the Mekong Delta would be missing without a drop in Dong Tam Snake Farm – the largest snake raising and treatment center located 10 km far in the west of My Tho City. It was opened in 1979 to undertake in doing scientific researches, raising and conserving many species of snakes. It was first used to produce traditional medicines for those who are bitten by poisonous snakes in the region. It is estimated that over 1,000 victims were cured by this effective snakebite treatment.
You will feel horrified yet excited in this kingdom of hundreds of species of snakes, many of which are rare and listed in Vietnam’s Red Book. More importantly, how to recognize differences between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes or how to manage the first aid when accidentally bitten by the snakes might be helpful information you gained. Apart from snakes, you can see many precious amphibians which are in danger of natural extinction in Vietnam also such as pythons and crocodiles. It might be said that spending around 45 minutes in a museum with more than 40 species of snakes will be valuable since it is the initial snake museum in Vietnam. Another interesting point if you visit the farm is to enjoy the quiet atmosphere of fruit gardens which are reminiscent of a peaceful countryside.
Tram Chim National Park (Dong Thap)
Another interesting places worths exploring in your Mekong Delta trip is Tram Chim National Park with an enormous wetland area covering in a total area of more than 7500 hectares with a diversified range of animals and plants. It is located in Dong Thap Muoi, Tam Nong district, Dong Thap province. It takes around 6 hours driving from Ho Chi Minh City. Around one-fourth of a total number of birds in Vietnam (equivalent with around 200 types) inhabit here. Some has listed in the Red Book of Vietnam and the world.
The best time to visit the national park is the dry season between December and May. Especially, if you travel from February to May, you will have the opportunity to observe and see a bird species listed in the Global Red Book is Sarus Crane. Wearing a gray suit with a distinctive red head, silky long broad wings and tall feet, each landing performance of Sarus Crane looks like a wonderful natural dance on the air. It is 100% sure that you will be deeply impressed if you see this performance in the red light at sunset.
The unique transportation through the park is “tac rang”- a typical small motorboat in southern Vietnam. Sitting on the boat and viewing a magnificent natural picture created by thousands of lotus will make you feel as in heaven. As located in the heart of Dong Thap Muoi, the lotus of Tram Chim is deserved as the most beautiful lotus type. The lotus in this park has big and thick petals with multiple layers in white or pink colors. From a 20-meter high watch tower named Vong Canh, you can see a panoramic view of a large part of the park./.