The Mekong Delta is a vast network of rivers, tributaries, stilt houses, and rice fields in southwest Vietnam, between Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia. The river itself starts in the Himalayas and passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Vietnam, which partly explains why the waters are so murky. Scattered within the giant Delta are numerous places to visit that give you amazing insight into what life may be like in the Vietnamese countryside.
The colorful collection of towns sprinkled along the banks of the Mekong River are blessed with dazzling blue skies, brimming with exotic fruits, and dotted with markets, temples and colonial-era mansions. Many Mekong Delta attractions are visited on a Mekong Cruise, to others you need to get on your own. The mangroves, the bird sanctuaries, networks of canals are some of the ideas for the adventure holiday in Vietnam. Here are the best places to visit in Mekong Delta
Ben Tre is one of the towns closest to Ho Chi Minh City, and therefore an easy place to see on a day tour from Saigon. However, like every Mekong Delta province, Ben Tre has its own share of secret spots where you can easily hide away in a riverfront homestay for several days. Whether you’re coming for a quick trip or a longer retreat, Ben Tre delivers an abundance of treasures.
A boat ride along the nipa palm-fringed canals is a great way to go. Most boat tours stop at a coconut candy workshop, where you can taste as much coconut candy as you like while you watch the process from harvesting to packaging.
Hon Son, also known as Lai Son, is a solitary and beautiful mountain island about 30 miles southwest of Rach Gia. It is very undeveloped and has some pretty coastline, with a single road circling the island and connecting a handful of communities and remote beaches. The island is ringed by some large rock formations making for good photo opportunities. In the north, Bai Bac and Bai Bo are the best beaches, but Bai Bang, in the east, is also popular thanks to a horizontal coconut palm and lots of strategically placed swings.
The Mekong Delta isn’t just about the rivers, it’s also about the nearby islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island and is a relatively unknown tropical paradise where you can immerse yourself in wild nature, deserted palm tree-lined beaches, and forested mountains. More than half of the island’s northern region is protected as a national park and was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2010. Here, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping and birdwatching, as well as the possibility of seeing rare wildlife, such as long-tailed macaques, silver langurs, slow lorises and hornbills.
With picture-perfect white sand and swaying palm trees, the delightful Sao Beach, on Phu Quoc Island, presents a quintessential tropical paradise, alongside a crystal-clear sea near An Thoi, the main shipping port at the southern tip of the island. The picturesque beach takes its name from the Vietnamese word for “starfish” as the waters used to be full of white starfish at sunset. The quiet north side is ideal for snorkeling, swimming and strolling along the shoreline.
Long Beach on Phu Quoc Island is draped invitingly along the west coast from Duong Dong to An Thoi. With its west-facing aspect, the sunsets here can be astonishing. A motorbike or bicycle is necessary to reach some of the beach’s remote stretches towards the southern end of the island.
Just off the southern tip of Phu Quoc, these 15 islands and islets are a paradise of white sand and blue waters. They can be visited by chartering a boat for an awesome day of sightseeing, fishing, swimming and snorkeling. Hon Thom (Pineapple Island) is about two miles in length and is the largest island in the group; it’s now connected to Phu Quoc by the Hon Thom Cable Car, the world’s longest over-sea ride.
This lush island, located in the lower part of Tien River, covers about 3,000 acres, crisscrossed by canals and waterways. It’s best known for its natural beauty and abundant fruit trees, including rambutan, longan and sapoche, which line the shore and supply many of the markets in Tien Giang province. You can explore the island by boat, before visiting the orchards and spending an afternoon relaxing in hammocks. The island’s historic homes are another attraction: Mr. Tam’s house, open to visitors, is an exemplary model of a traditional home, with antique furnishings and a bonsai garden.
Tra Su Bird Sanctuary is a place for nature lovers, well known for its ecological richness as well as its wild beauty and is one of the Mekong Delta best places to see if you are in Chau Doc. This immense forest is home to an astounding number of wading birds. Much of the wetland is off-limits to visitors so that the birds’ breeding grounds are not disturbed, but visits include a short speedboat ride and a tranquil 20-minute paddle along narrow channels through the gnarled and green sunken forest. The best time to visit is December to January, when the chicks hatch.
This fascinating ecotourism site is a vibrant forested area that is dry most of the year. However, at the end of the year during the rainy season, the area turns into a flooded forest, making it ideal for a guided boat tour through the region. Best months to visit are from September to November.
On the road between Can Tho and Long Xuyen, this magnificent bird sanctuary is home to thousands of storks and snowy egrets. There is a tall viewing platform to see the birds filling the branches, but the best times to view this incredible sight are around dawn and dusk.
Tram Chim National Park of Dong Thap province is also called the kingdom of birds in Vietnam, home to more than 220 species of birds, many of which are endangered and rare. March or April are the best months to go birdwatching in this part of the region. It is particularly notable for its rare red-headed cranes which nest here from about December to May; from June to November they migrate to northwest Cambodia.
The best of the Gulf of Thailand beaches, the water here is incredibly warm and becalmed, and therefore perfect for taking a dip, while the beach is much improved thanks to the sand imported from Phu Quoc Island, all set beneath a canopy of lofty palms.
At 750ft high, this is the tallest mountain in Mekong Delta, located in the west of Chau Doc Town. It features one of the most beautiful landscapes in Vietnam with endless rice fields. From the top of the mountain, is a great view of the surrounding countryside looking towards Cambodia. For the Vietnamese, it’s also an important place of Buddhist pilgrimage.
Also known as Phuoc Dien Tu, this temple is halfway up the western (far) side of Sam Mountain, with amazing views of the surrounding countryside. The lower part of the pagoda includes monks’ quarters and two hexagonal tombs in which the founder of the pagoda, a female tailor named Le Thi Tho, and a former head monk, Thich Hue Thien, are buried. The upper section has two parts: the main sanctuary, and an astounding complex of caverns and grottoes.
The magnificent Xeo Quyt Forest near My Hiep village is one vast swamp beneath a beautiful thick canopy of tall trees and vines. It hides the remains of Viet Cong bunkers, which can be seen on a canoe tour inside the forest and on foot along the walking trails.
Ca Mau is one of the provinces in the Mekong Delta that owns a golden treasure of coastal mangrove ecosystems. The forest is filled with seawater and the water surfaces are green due to the presence of water ferns.
Home to the largest population of Khmer people outside of Cambodia, the city of Soc Trang presents an interesting cultural feel that’s different from the other cities in the area. The best examples of Khmer culture are the Clay and Bat pagodas, both famous for their intricate designs. For a relaxing experience, visit the rice fields which surround the city. If you’re in the area around November or December, be sure to check out the Oc Om Boc festival.
Protected by UNESCO, this reserve is valuable for its rich mangrove forests and wetland ecosystems, while also helping to protect the region from corrosion. As it’s near to Ho Chi Minh City, it makes for a great day trip, or a starting point for your journey through the Mekong River Delta.
The city of Chau Doc is known for its religious and ethnic diversity, which includes Khmer, Chinese, Cham and Vietnamese people. Like most of the Mekong Delta, the surrounding areas are lush with rice fields and spectacular rural scenes. For a real treat, stay at the Victoria Nui Sam.
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