A Day in the Mekong Delta

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The Mekong Delta, the place where the great river splits into trails, paths and waterways, is supposed to be one of Vietnam’s most beautiful attractions. Naturally, my friends and I decided to book a one-day tour from Saigon.

I’ll be honest – while we’ve done so many wonderful things in Vietnam, our Mekong Delta tour was a bit of a bust.

After a bus ride and boat trip, we made our first stop – a coconut candy factory.

The candy had a bit of an odd taste, especially since it was wrapped in (edible) rice paper, but it quickly became addicting!

We also got a free shot of coconut wine.

The next part was a bike ride around the island. There weren’t enough bikes for everyone on our tour, and a lot of them were rusty and broken down.  A few were even missing pedals.

Being one of the last people to get there, I declined a bike and instead went for a walk…though I was amused watching super-tall Sander on his.

The walk was nice.  Lunch, honestly, was pretty scary.

And then we came to the best part of the day – a canoe ride through gorgeous waterways. Now, THIS was the Mekong Delta that I had imagined.

AND we got to wear conical hats!

Next, we had fruit and tea while listening to a band, and then we were ushered to another pavilion where we were served more tea.  Nothing vile, but nothing special, either.

But the worst part of the trip was that people were always, constantly hounding us to buy stuff. Rather than the authentic villages I imagined, every island was covered with gift shops.

We were encouraged to buy coconut candy and wine (which we did), to order expensive dishes instead of the included meal, and, quite awkwardly, to tip the singers.

That’s not to say the day was a complete disaster. It was cheap ($8, including lunch), and my friends and I had fun.  Though we would have had fun no matter what we were doing.

But if I had been alone, or if I had shelled out a lot of money for this, I wouldn’t have been happy.

Just know that if you sign up for a Mekong Delta tour, this will likely be what you get. However, I’ve heard that the two-day tours, which include a homestay, are more worthwhile.

When you have a disappointing tour, it can sometimes be a blessing – it makes you realize how many great adventures you’ve already had. And while this one didn’t measure up, it made me look back at my amazing times in Vietnam, from Hanoi to Saigon, and smile.

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9 thoughts on “A Day in the Mekong Delta”

  1. Everyone seems to be a jack of all trades in Asia. “Massage? Transport?” One lady tried to sell me 50 necklaces for what would come out to be $10. I’m traveling in North Bali right now, and it’s the slow season, so I imagine people start to get a bit desperate this time of year. Doesn’t make it any more frustrating when everyone you see is only interested in selling things. I imagine these places were more “adventurous” before the rise in tourism…

  2. That sucks about all the people trying to sell stuff to you, but I guess it’s something to be expected on any tour. The pictures of the canoe ride look incredibly beautiful though!

  3. This brings back so many memories…I did an overnight tour on the Mekong Delta from Saigon and at those very same coconut candies, which made me crave them right now…they are addicting for some reason.

    Interesting to see though that it has become more touristy, we were never asked for tips, and no one ever sold us anything (this was in 2002), guess times have changed!

  4. Interesting…our tour was quite the opposite. We had a very small group (about 6-8 of us total) and did our own boat down the Mekong. We stopped at the candy place, but there was no pressure. The place we were at also made the region’s rice paper sheets and we watched that for awhile and ended up doing shots of snake wine. We also stopped at a giant pottery type factory and had lunch in this man’s house that used to be a hiding spot for the Viet Cong during the war. We were served a very traditional mutli-course home cooked lunch that was included in the tour price.

    We never saw a gift shop anywhere on the tour either (this was just a year ago). There were four of us who liked the guide so much we hired him the next day to do a private tour around Saigon since we were all flying out that afternoon.

    Bummer your tour was a bust — makes me appreciate ours more now! 🙂

    1. Hi Erin
      I am planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in Nov and would love to know which tour operator you used that was so great. Please send details!
      Thank you 🙂

  5. I did a three-day tour, with an exit to Phnom Penh, it was definitely NOT any more authentic. The home stay was probably the least authentic part, thouhg since i was travelling alone it didn’t cost any extra than staying in a hotel for the night.

  6. Skip the tours and get a local bus from Saigon to My Tho or Can Tho Its really easy to get around the Mekong Delta on local buses. Go down to the river frontage anyway and find a local boat woman to take you exploring on the river… cheap as chips,.. and far more interesting than the awful day tours from Saigon.

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