Though there are no impressive monuments or well-known towns in the delta, this is a region of simple pleasures and constant surprises that rewards exploration. Besides the floating markets seen by day trippers, the Mekong Delta is an excellent place for bird watching, temple visits and boat tours.
Day Trips from Mekong Delta
The most popular destinations for day-trippers from Ho Chi Minh City are My Tho and Cai Be, since they can both be reached in a couple of hours. At My Tho tourists are transferred on to boats that cruise around a few nearby islands, making stops at fruit orchards to sample sapodillas, bananas and longans and at coconut candy factories. At Cai Be tourists are taken on a tour of the floating market, where quantities of the delta’s produce are traded.
Popular Towns Around the Mekong Delta
Of the towns where tourists stay overnight, Can Tho is the biggest, though Chau Doc, near the Cambodian border, is also popular with budget travellers who are on their way to Phnom Penh.
Can Tho’s main attractions are floating markets, and it offers the best standards of accommodation and dining in the whole delta. Tours around Chau Doc take in fish farms, a Cham village and Sam Mountain, one of the only hills in this pancake-flat land.
War Sites in Mekong Delta
Somehow the delta wouldn’t seem like Vietnam if it didn’t have some sites associated with war, and to the west of Chau Doc are two such places – Ba Chuc and Tup Duc. Tup Duc is the site of a former Vietcong base and is open to visitors who would like to see the jumbled boulders that provided such excellent cover for the guerrillas.
Ba Chuc is a much more moving location, where in April 1978 the Khmer Rouge crossed the nearby border and massacred thousands of villagers. A memorial of skulls, neatly arranged by age and sex, pays silent homage to that nightmarish atrocity.
Birds, Temples and Beaches in Mekong Delta
For bird spotters, the delta is a revered location as it plays host to rare sarus cranes with their distinctive red heads at the Tram Chim National Park near Cao Lanh. Sadly sightings have decreased drastically in recent years but you may be lucky and catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures.
There are several stork sanctuaries around the delta, of which the best is probably Bang Lang Stork Sanctuary between Long Xuyen and Can Tho. Here thousands of these graceful birds swoop and soar each evening looking for a perfect perch for the night.
There are many colourful, Khmer-style temples in the delta, especially around Tra Vinh and Soc Trang, where the monks are usually eager to practice their limited English skills with visitors. The Hang Pagoda near Tra Vinh and the Mahatup Pagoda near Soc Trang are both fascinating
The coast of the delta is lined with mangrove swamps more than soft-sand beaches, but there is a short strip of sand along the Hon Chong Peninsula, in the delta’s northwest, where you can wiggle your toes in the sand. The beaches here can’t compare with the ones on nearby Phu Quoc Island, but they attract crowds of Vietnamese at weekends.