Day: June 22nd, 2006

Mekong Delta — Part I

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006 | All Things, Travel

Back in Saigon and exhausted, but time to catch up…

My Tho, capital of the Tien Giang province, is a typical entry point to the Mekong Delta for visitors from HCMC. Located just a 90 minutes’ drive away, the area is famous for its coconut palms and fruit orchards. I set out by minivan early Thursday morning for my two day tour of Vietnam’s rice bowl region.

Upon arrival in My Tho, I hopped a small ferry boat — the first of what would become several means of water transport — to putter around the area islets: Unicorn Island, Dragon Island, Phoenix Island and Tortoise Island. Boats of widely varying size, age and sophistication are the primary means of travel among the canals of the Mekong Delta.

To My Tho

On Tortoise Island, I toured the abundant groves of fruit trees: Papaya…


Longans… There are green and unripe. Later in the day, I came across a tree with ripened fruit and was able to pick directly from the branches for a tasty, but messy snack.


Water apples… Also unripe. I sampled these for the first time in Hong Kong. Refreshing.

Water Apples

… and Pomelo, which we have in the U.S. Note the Vietnamese version of scratchitti on this one.


After the islands tour, I made my way to Ben Tre province. The system of canals is very narrow in segments, though, and motorized boats are not permitted through the coconut grove-lined water passages. Had to hire a rowboat, most of which seemed to be driven by petite local women. Looks are deceiving, though, and in pairs, these women impressively navigate their boats packed with hefty tourists through the twists and turns without hardly breaking a sweat. Quite a feat… I was drenched in perspiration and all I had to do was sit quietly (and snap these photos):

Mekong Boats

Through the Delta

The waters may look filthy, but the murkiness is due to silt, not pollution. Other than the occasional leaves, branches and fruit peels, the passages were relatively free of debris. I observed many locals swimming, bathing (with clothes on — not unusual) and washing clothes along the banks. Modest private homes with sampans line the canal.

Delta life (1)

Delta life (2)

To Vinh Long. The large ferry transports passengers, cars, vans, and lots of motorbikes.
To Can Tho

Then a two hour drive to Can Tho, the largest city and de facto capital of the Mekong Delta. I had arranged with four others to stay with a local rural family overnight, and was informed upon arrival in the city that their home was located about half an hour out of town, by road then water. My transportation to the canal:
Local transport

We were loaded up four(!) with luggage on this rickety contraption. Being the odd person out, I was offered the option of either squeezing onto the back, or hopping another motorbike alone. Neither choice seemed particularly less hazardous than the other, so I opted for safety in numbers. I was perched on the plank — no sides — riding backwards, over bumpy country roads and a bridge, clutching onto my bags and the sides for dear life. Needless to say, no photos of that segment of the journey.

Thankfully, the ride was just ten minutes long, and I arrived at the water’s edge safe and sound. The owner of the house and his two young daughters met us at the canal bank with the family’s motorized motorboat. For the next twenty-five minutes, we cruised leisurely through the waters, past several open fronted homes, and felt very far away from the city.

The delta at dusk:

Can Tho

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