Visiting the Mekong Delta has been on my bucket list for quite some time – so I was delighted to find an affordable two day, one night trip during my week-long jaunt in Vietnam. At the cost of 640,000 Vietnamese Dong (roughly £20) we had a two-day extravaganza of a tour that seemed to include everything you could possibly want.
Day 1 – With a 7.30am pick up we then embarked on a 4 hour drive to the Mekong Delta. On the way we stopped off at a charming town with three enormous (and I mean enormous) Buddhas, plus the beautiful Vinh Trang Temple where you could make a wish that was guaranteed to come true (it hasn’t yet but I will keep you posted… We then arrived at the first proper stop and jumped on a boat to tour some beautiful and magical islands – Dragon Island, Unicorn Island, Phoenix Island and Turtle Island.
Our first stop was Dragon Island – where we started off by sampling some of the delicious locally produced honey. Then we met an enormous snake – one woman on the trip had ophiophobia – a fear about snakes and promptly burst into tears and left the group. The tour guide didn’t know what to do and swiftly curtailed this part of the tour – but not before I’d had the chance to hold the snake who weighed an absolutely ton! We then jumped back on our boat and went to the next jetty on the island to listen to some local music (painful is not the word…) accompanied by some delicious local fruit sampling (I have no idea what fruit I tried but it was all amazing) before walking through the island to jump on a small rowing boat (6 per boat) and be rowed along the small Mekong tributary for 10 or so minutes. It was a very crowded part of the river but a charming trip nonetheless. Once we’d disembarked the small boat we jumped into a horse and cart and were taken to a coconut sweet making ‘factory’ and shown how to make these delicious local sweets.
It was then time to get back on our bigger boat and be taken across to Phoenix Island. Here we had our lunch – the basic lunch was also included in the cost of the trip – we decide to add in some local elephant fish – an enormous fish which you pulled off of the bones and made into rice paper wrapped traditional Vietnamese spring rolls – fresh and tasty in the heat. We could then borrow bikes and cycle around the island, check out the alligators (of which there were plenty – luckily scared girl didn’t have herpetophobia!) and then lay in one of the many vacant hammocks and had a snooze for half an hour or so.
At 3pm it was time to get back on the boat and head back to the mainland and our coach to be transported to our accommodation for the night. At this point you had a choice of sleeping at a homestay (local home) or a two star hotel. We were in a two star hotel on the outskirts of the city of Can Tho – and it was ideal. Well position, clean and comfy – we walked into the town and perused the night market before having a gourmet meal at Sao Hom – and the Rough Guide was right in recommending the pumpkin flower fritters – they were delish, as was the glass of Sauvignon Blanc I washed them down with. After dinner we wandered along the riverfront and checked out the Ho Chi Minh statue before heading back to the hotel for a few hours’ kip before the 6.15am wake up call.
Day two was the climax of the trip and tick something off of my bucket list – it was time to visit one of the floating markets. It was up with the larks – across to the café over the road for a simple but tasty breakfast – and then back on the bus to get our boat from the riverside in Can Tho. It was a glorious morning and our boat chugged down the Mekong for a while en route to pick up the Home Stay members of our party. However just as they appeared in sight our boat broke down! A friendly local brought the Homestay Girls (as I like to refer to them) across to our ailing boat, and once they hopped on board another friendly local towed us across to the other side of the Mekong to await a replacement boat. Although this was all great fun and handled brilliantly by our guide – I did begin to get a bit concerned that we would miss the Floating Market as I knew they finished up before the end of the morning. However my fears were unfounded –and after a quick mooch around an indoor market we jumped aboard a new boat and were chugging our ay back down the river.
The Cai Rang Floating Market soon came into view and it was not disappointing. Boats of all shapes and sizes displaying their wares on long bamboos at the front of the vessel were straddled across the Mekong. We wove in and out looking at what was on offer – mostly fruit and veg – before jumping aboard a pineapple boat (ie a boat selling pineapple rather than a boat made of pineapple!) and sampling the produce.
Pineapple consumed it was time to get back on our boat and leave the market. Feeling happy and satiated we headed to a small island where we were shown how to make rice paper noodles at the Sau Hoai with yet more tasty sampling, and then one final stop for a quick fresh fruit tour and yet more local sampling. We then headed back to Can Tho – had a quick Bahn Mei lunch and then boarded our bus for Ho Chi Minh.