The iconic Mekong River rises in the Tibetan Plateau before flowing for thousands of kilometres down to the South China Sea. Its enormous Delta makes up the vast majority of the South West of Vietnam and life has changed little for generations. Mekong tours offer a genuine insight into rural life; villages whose main activity is agriculture and others where fishing has primary importance. No Vietnam travel package is complete without a little time in the Mekong, whether it is cruising its waters just watching daily activities or visiting the floating markets. Naturalists regard this region as a treasure; the Delta covers almost 40,000 square kilometres with the water level very much dependent upon the season. The monsoon affecting Cambodia, Laos and Southern Vietnam means waters will certainly rise, peaking around August. To know more about Mekong delta in Vietnam, please read our Mekong travel guide.
There is evidence of human settlement in the 4th Century BC while during the Funan Kingdom in the 1st and 2nd Centuries this was an important trading region. This was Khmer territory before the rise of its Empire in the 11th and 12th Century while the Champa moved south to take control of parts of the region (including Prey Nokor, today’s Ho Chi Minh City) late in the 13th Century. Mekong travel packages will reveal more about the area’s history. Increasingly ethnic Vietnamese moved south to the Mekong and eventually the Cambodians left with the Nguyen Dynasty seizing the Delta. The French controlled this region until independence and subsequently the Delta saw considerable fighting before the country was unified as the USA withdrew.
There are a few hills to north and west but the predominant landscape is low-lying flat flood plain. Sediment has been deposited over millions of years resulting in a fertile region, the most fertile in the whole of Vietnam. Both of the main channels discharge into the EAST Sea with former channels into the Gulf of Thailand now silted up. Flooding is common and there is genuine concern that this will become an increasing phenomenon in the decades to come.
Almost 18 million people depend upon the Delta for their livelihood; there is no real population growth nor is there likely to be as more and more are attracted west to Ho Chi Minh City and beyond. With little forest in the Delta, the vast majority of the land is used for agriculture; almost 50% of the Country’s cereals, including rice, are grown here. The Delta is just as important for fishing and much of the transport infrastructure is dependent upon the water rather than road.
There are several alternatives on how much time you can spend on a Mekong tour within a Vietnam travel package or indeed a holiday that takes in more of Indochina. There are day trips from Ho Chi Minh City it is important that you have the advice of a good tour operator in order to make best use of your time:
• The Can Be floating market is probably the most popular day trip. An early morning departure offers the chance to visit the market as well as cruise down the many quiet channels and perhaps even spend time exploring ashore? Can Tho Market is not quite so popular but there are advantages in fewer crowds.
• Those with a little more time can stay one night or more within the Delta region to really absorb what daily life is like. Cruise ships with accommodation on board are one option while there is accommodation on land as well. Homestays are popular and you can spend time kayaking with guides who will ensure you don’t get lost.
• The Mekong is navigable all the way to Phnom Penh in Cambodia and cruises take passengers with the time into this neighbouring country and a Vietnam travel agency will make all the necessary arrangements.
• If instead you prefer to head southwards, then you can head down to the EAST Sea and perhaps visit Phu Quoc Island which is off the Cambodian Coast.
• If you want to see as much as possible of the Mekong yet time is limited, you may decide to take a speedboat which will obviously cover far more miles if not quite as quietly as other forms of transport.
• There are tours concentrating on local Vietnam cuisine. Obviously the ingredients are those grown in the Delta and you will still have the chance to see plenty of the river as you travel to your classes.
While you will visit plenty of temples in Vietnam to see one of them in the Delta is worth a visit; Vinh Trang in My Tho. It is certainly a photo opportunity to contrast with the other pictures you will take within the Delta. None of your time is wasted within this wonderful region that plays such an important role in Vietnamese life.
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