The moment I had been waiting for in Vietnam had finally arrived.
I finally climbed into a skinny sampan boat and… yes… was handed a conical hat to put on my head.
Vietnam dream COMPLETE.
Okay, so of course I'm exaggerating a bit; I didn't really have “wearing a conical hat in a sampan boat in Vietnam” on my bucket list. … But, still, it WAS pretty cool.
In fact, “cool” is the word I would use to describe the entire Mekong Delta day trip I went on as part of my Intrepid Travel tour of Vietnam.
I was expecting to enjoy it, but, seeing as how it came towards the end of our tour and we'd already had so many amazing adventures — from an overnight cruise at Ha Long Bay to cycling through the countryside to getting custom-tailored clothing made in Hoi An — that I wasn't sure Vietnam could possibly top itself.
But then it did – I loved my day in the Mekong Delta.
The Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a region in southwestern Vietnam where the mighty Mekong River, a river that runs through six different countries in Southeast Asia, empties out into the sea.
The Delta is an incredibly interesting and important region, covering more than 15,000 square miles. It's biologically diverse, with over 1,000 different animal species. It's the agricultural heart of southern Vietnam. And it's also one of the most important fishing regions in all of Vietnam.
Taking a day trip to the Mekong Delta is something you should definitely consider.
Visiting the Mekong Delta
Our trip into the Mekong Delta began in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City. We took a bus a little over two hours outside of the city to the Delta port town of My Tho. We boarded a boat, and began navigating down the Mekong River, learning about how important its waters are to this part of the world.
Eventually, we transferred into small sampan boats, our conical hats in place, to cruise through the canals and quiet waterways of the Delta.
As the local man rowing our boat took long, sure strokes to propel us through the groves of water coconut trees, we all marveled at the beauty of this part of Vietnam.
Yes, this part of Vietnam is densely populated and filled with fisheries and farms. But it's still beautiful in its simplicity.
I've heard of others who have taken Mekong Delta trips and hated them. Who have said that they were too go-go-go and included too many stops at local agricultural sites and shops.
It's true that tours in Vietnam tend to include stops at souvenir stands or local factories, but I found this to be true throughout much of Southeast Asia. It's just how things are here, in a place where tourism is swiftly becoming an important industry of its own.
On my Mekong Delta tour, after our relaxing float on the sampans, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant, where they brought us out delicious fresh spring rolls, whole grilled fish, curries, rice, fresh fruit, and more. We then took about half an hour to laze around in hammocks (yes, this really was part of our itinerary!) before setting off to explore more of the Delta.
After lunch, we donned more headgear – helmets this time – and piled into motor carts known as “Xe loi” in order to zip around on the few roads and down jungle lanes.
We stopped for some fresh fruit (at a spot where apparently young Vietnamese can come and rent little huts by the hour… if you know what I mean…) and our mischievous Intrepid tour guide tried to fix the pretty owner up with one of the men on in our group.
After laughing until our stomachs hurt at our guide's antics, we piled back into the motor carts and headed to a coconut candy factory — the only really “touristy”-feeling stop on this tour.
We watched them make sticky, toffee-like coconut candy, and were offered shots of coconut wine (yes, apparently that's really a thing) before heading back to the water once more to return to the mainland and eventually Saigon.
When I think back to this day, I remember us grinning in our conical hats and giggling beneath helmets as the xe loi drivers put on speed. I remember swinging in a hammock in what felt like a jungle oasis and the taste of mango dipped in salt and chili powder.
And those are pretty great memories.
If you're headed to Vietnam and are considering going to the Mekong Delta, I can highly recommend it – especially if you have some great people to travel with like I did. It's a special part of Vietnam.
Day tours to the Mekong Delta
The tour I did in the Mekong Delta was the Mekong Discovery trip through Urban Adventures. This company offers day tours all around the world with a focus on truly local experiences. This trip is 7-8 hours from Ho Chi Minh City, and is worth every penny if you ask me!
Other Mekong Delta day trips to check out include:
- Mekong Delta Discovery Small Group Adventure Tour from Ho Chi Minh City
- Experience Mekong by Bike and Kayak
- Overnight Rustic Mekong Delta Tour
READ NEXT: Traveling in Vietnam with Intrepid Travel
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*Note: I visited the Mekong Delta as part of a complimentary tour of Vietnam and Cambodia with Intrepid Travel. However, as always, opinions are completely my own.
I think the hat is definitely a requirement!