Saigon Diaries – A Day Trip to The Mekong Delta

Most flights to Vietnam land in its chaotic business hub – Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon. Now we can definitely forgive you for staring at postcards with picture-perfect Vietnamese panoramas of rice paddies while you are surrounded by Saigon’s nightmarish traffic. These postcards seem to be selling a bucolic haven, enveloped by mist, that’s nowhere to be found. The only ‘mist’ you’ll see here is a result of the fumes arising from thousands of motorbikes on Saigon’s busy roads. If you have over a week or two, it’s possible to experience idyllic Vietnam in all its glory at Halong Bay, Phu Quoc, or Mui Ne/Phan Thiet. If not, then a Day Trip to the Mekong Delta is the perfect way to get a taste of the gorgeous Vietnamese countryside.A 2-hour drive through suburban Saigon leads to My Tho, an important market town and the gateway to the bustling floating markets of the Mekong Delta. The Mekong River, known as The Mighty Dragon or The River of the Nine Dragons in Vietnam, is the life-line of six countries in Asia (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and China). It passes through temple cities, lush tropical forests, swamps, rice plantations and boasts of some of the richest and most fertile landscapes in the world. Jasmine CruiseSo we decided to go for a sampan cruise on one of the tributaries of the Mekong.We opted for a private tour and had the entire boat to ourselvesOur guide Nam, a young university student, gave us a short geographical lesson before we boarded a small boat that took us to Unicorn Island, named after a Chinese mythological figure. We sat on a wobbly bench under a thatched roof as we sampled Vietnamese honey tea. Regular tea is flavoured with the juice of kumquats (a small citrusy fruit, similar to limes) and sweetened with home-made honey. Southern Vietnam DiscoveryBee pollen might be the newest health fad to hit the western world, but here in the backwaters of Vietnam, it is generously spooned into every cup of tea. We sipped on the tea and munched on the accompanying candied ginger, banana chips, and peanut bars as we observed the ritual being repeated for dozens of tourists around us.Saigon Diaries – A Day Trip to The Mekong DeltaMoments later, we were treated to a rather weary song and dance routine by local musicians before being ferried to a neighbouring island, known as the Kingdom of Coconut. Ben Tre Island boasts of over 45,000 hectares of coconut trees, so make sure you carry an insect repellent spray or wear a mosquito repellent band when you venture to this part of the country. Every day hundreds of tourists visit this island, so the thrill of stumbling on something new is almost non-existent. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun.We visited a local coconut factory and tried our hand at making coconut candy. We failed miserably, so we drowned our sorrows in snake wine- yes that’s a thing! Don’t believe us? Take a lookBut we didn’t stop there – our guide treated us to a calorie-laden lunch comprising fried fish, scrumptious Pho, and Vietnamese rice-paper spring rolls. Once we were suitably stuffed, we decided to go on a bike-ride through the Vietnamese country side (yes, that’s how smart we are). As you might have predicted we were panting for breath in no time :-)Towards the end of the day, we decided to go for a Sampan cruise on one of the tributaries of the Mekong. We stepped into our boat tentatively but started enjoying the ride almost as soon as our boat started making its way past lush palm trees and stunning green foliage. Day trips such as this are bound to feel ‘touristy’, but one look at the brightly-coloured boats bobbing along the calm waters of the Mekong made us fall in love with the river. We’ll definitely be back for more….FACT FILEA Day Trip to the Mekong Delta is the perfect way of getting a taste of the Vietnamese countryside if you only 1 day to spare. If you have 2-3 days, make sure you visit the floating markets in Can Tho as well.We booked our Day Trip to the Mekong Delta with Impress Travels – their staff arranged everything well and promptly responded to all our queries within hours over email. Highly recommended.The tour costs anywhere between $35-65/person depending on group size. Private tours cost $75/person.We opted for a private tour – this gave us the flexibility of customising the tour according to our taste. Moreover this ensured we did not feel rushed at any time.

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