The Mekong River rises up on the Tibetan Plateau, flowing out ultimately into the South China Sea. The portion of the Mekong in Vietnam is an enormous delta, the most fertile region of the Country and something that everyone travelling to Vietnam should try to visit. A visa to Vietnam is no problem; you can get one on arrival in the Country. Many Vietnam packages begin in Ho Chi Minh City to the east of the Delta and after a tour of the city, the Delta is a great place to head.
There is much to see including the villages and the narrow channels off the main flows. There are major urban areas and rural areas where you can watch the farmers, fishermen, and the daily lives of their families. While you are in the Delta you must visit one of the many floating markets where locals sell their fresh produce. There are a few to recommend and one or other of these are likely to be ones that Vietnam tour operators will choose for their clients to see:
• Cho Gao is a market full of colour. You will see the freshest fruit and vegetables, fish that will just have been caught and of course rice. Each of the markets start early because in terms of food products, locals are buying the day’s food. They won’t have, nor do they need, refrigerators because they will shop each day to buy fresh. If you are looking for souvenirs or presents you will be able to buy local handicrafts and by all means barter, though do it politely.
• Phong Dien is certainly one of the bigger markets. The main produce is fruit but there will be vegetables and fish as well. You won’t get there early enough to see the goods arriving but there is boat after boat arriving from the nearby orchards extremely early in the morning. Many buyers here purchase in bulk because their business is then to sell on the produce in the large towns and cities, at quite a handsome profit.
• Cai Be opens at 5am and also serves wholesalers who buy and move on elsewhere to sell to their customers. Here is the place for a special photograph because there is a cathedral on the river bank that makes a great background to your photographs.
• Phung Hiep has customers who buy fruit that is destined for the processing companies even as far away as Hanoi. It means there are some fairly large boats coming to buy the fruit. There is food on offer and it is interesting to watch the trade in snakes, most of them extremely poisonous. You can taste snake liquor there if you wish. The Market also trades in wild birds, storks, doves and moorcocks are just three examples.
• Cai Rang opens at sunrise and has plenty of fruit but there will also be smuggled goods changing hands as well.
Read more: Mekong delta travel guide
Going to any of these floating markets means an early start; it is well worth it.