The far south of Vietnam is one of the two main rice bowls of the country. Dominated by the Mekong Delta, the surrounding lands are comprised of low lying rice paddies and the rivers are bordered by dense mangroves and palms. The tributaries of the hectic Mekong River highway provide a comprehensive network of canals and channels. The rivers are the best methods to explore the region at a leisurely pace and offer an opportunity to experience the truly unique Mekong River lifestyle.
What follows is an itinerary for exploring the Delta in a clockwise direction, beginning south of Ho Chi Minh City at Mytho. The areas listed below are very popular with travelers and even non-travelers. Cruising up rivers sitting on the roof of a boat laden with all manner of fish produce while gazing at a beautiful sunset over the distant palm tress, is a truly unforgettable experience.
|My Tho||Ben Tre||Vinh Long|
Mytho is a delightful town, situated about two hours by bus south west of Ho Chi Minh city. Sitting on the bank of The Mekong River, Mytho is divided into two parts by a tributary of the river. From here you can take a number of short boat trips to various islands and floating markets within the surrounding area. It is also a good place to catch the overnight long boats to a variety of locations including Chau Doc and Long Xuyen. A quiet evening in Mytho can be spent on your veranda watching the sun set and the fishing fleet unload after dark. During the day you can spend hours in a nearby caf?/span> simply watching life go by, or on the river, cruising the day away. The Mytho experience is enhanced by the fact that the streets are generally extremely quiet. In Mytho, you will not have to worry about the challenges of bikes for there are not many. It is very relaxing.
Along 30 thang 4 street is an amazing demonstration of the bizarre Vietnamese taste for really tacky photos. Rather than have their photo taken with the background of the flowing Mekong River, photographers have erected all manner of cardboard backings with snow scenes, stuffed deer and to add that final touch of authenticity, their assistants are dressed as pandas. Just a bit further down the street from the strange photographic practices, there is a quiet little park where you can savour a baguette and watch the sun set.
Con Phung island
This island is also known as the Island of the Coconut Monk named after a monk, Ong Dao Dua, who meditated on the island for three years during which time he ate nothing but coconuts. An active supporter of the reunification of Vietnam, he strongly believed that reunification could be achieved by peaceful means. In the early 1960s, he founded a community in support of this ideal, and as a result was imprisoned by President Diem on a number occasions. At his time, the island became a sanctuary for those who were attempting to escape the ravages of war. Ong Dao Dua also headed his own sect, which was a bizarre mix of Christianity and Buddhism. The large cross that you may stumble upon in his sanctuary is not a swastika, but actually a sign of his victory over a communist community which he dissolved. You can reach Con Phung island by boat from Mytho in about 30 minutes.
If you enjoy having enormous pythons wrapped around you, this is the place for you as snakes are bred at the Snake Farm for anti-venom and medicinal purposes. If snakes do not turn you on, then maybe the turtles will. The Snake Farm is home to two yellow turtles, the only two living of their species known to the human race. They live up to 1,000 years and as these two turtles are only 200 years old, they have another 800 years to look forward to. The Thai government offered $ 250,000 US for the turtles, but the Vietnamese authorities declined the 'generous' offer.
Ben Tre is composed of seven districts with Chau Thanh being the main city, surrounded by many islands that are covered with coconut trees. Ben Tre is known throughout Vietnam for its masses of coconut palms, and during the war the coconut oil was used as a valuable substitute for kerosene. This area is relatively untouched by tourism and this is even more evident by the fact that NOBODY speaks English in Ben Tre. Even the tourist office has trouble communicating in English. Communication problems aside, you will find the people of Ben Tre to be exceedingly friendly and the countryside is beautiful. There is also a daily fresh produce market that is extremely colorful and worth visiting. Due to the limited exposure to tourism, Ben Tre can leave you with a purely cultural experience.
The town of Vinh Long is set on the edge of its principal attraction, the Mekong River. It is from here that you can set out to visit the many beautiful surrounding islands. Vinh Long is uncharacteristically large town as compared to other communities on the Mekong Delta. It has an abundance of tall buildings and Karaoke bars to tempt your vocal chords. At one stage in Vietnam's history, Vinh Long was at the center of a Christian stronghold. Although Christians no longer dominate in the area, there is still a cathedral that is worth visiting.
Most people that visit Vinh Long use it as a base to explore the islands which are home to people that grow local exotic produce. One of the more popular islands to visit has several rambutan and bonzai tree gardens with many different fruits and flowers.
Can Tho is a thriving metropolis with huge streets, little action and loads of mosquitoes. Although Can Tho has its own market by the riverside where you can buy some excellent ice-cream, the principal attraction would have to be the nearby floating markets. Being rather industrious, the centre of Can Tho is quite busy and noisy with motorized cyclos roaring up and down the streets combined with throngs of people going about their lives. The riverside can have its quiet moments, but Can Tho is also a burgeoning town and there are a number of pagodas worth visiting. For the trivia fans, you should know that Can Tho is the home to much of Vietnam's fish sauce.
Cai Rang Market is situated about 8 km from Can Tho by road or 20 km by boat as the river loops its way towards it.. This market is quite nice and a variety of fruit and vegetables are available. It is open from 5 am to 11 am. You will find it better for shopping the earlier you can get there. A cyclo from Can Tho to the Cai Rang Market will take about 15 minutes.
Another market, Phung Hiep market, is 31 km from Can Tho. This is the snake market, selling a plethora of living, wriggling and often poisonous snakes. Pythons and Cobras are sold here by people from the countryside who have caught them by hand. People come to this market to purchase snakes for restaurants, medicinal reasons or personal consumption. This market is open from 5 am to 5 pm. If traveling to Phung Hiep market by boat, you can add a dimension to your day by stopping and visiting some of the fruit gardens, where you can purchase many types of fruit including sell pineapple, rambutan and papaya.
|SAIGON & MEKONG DELTA page 2|