The ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the delta is carpeted in a dizzying variety of greens. It’s a water world that moves to the rhythms of the mighty Mekong, where boats, houses and markets float upon the innumerable rivers, canals and streams that criss-cross the landscape like arteries. The bustling commerce of its towns contrasts sharply with the languid, almost soporific pace of life in the countryside. Here buffalo wallow in rice paddies, coconut- and fruit-laden boats float slowly along the mud-brown waters, and two-wheeled exploration of the narrow lanes is amply rewarded with a true taste of rural hospitality (and delicious river fish). Elsewhere, mangrove forests teem with a wealth of bird life and bristle with the remains of Viet Cong bunkers, ornate Khmer pagodas and Buddhist temples reach for the sky, while off-coast islands offer white-sand beaches and tropical hideaways to some, and pirate havens to others.
My Tho is well geared up for boat trips, and near enough to Ho Chi Minh City to be seen on a day-trip: it affords an appetizing glimpse of the delta’s northernmost tributary, the Tien Giang.
Vĩnh Tràng Temple
Vĩnh Tràng Temple is a Buddhist temple near Mỹ Tho in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. It is one of the best-known temples in the region.
My Tho, just two hours from Saigon by bus, is the most accessible Mekong Delta town. This proximity makes it a favourite with the tour groups that pile into town from mid-morning to late-afternoon. The organised tours disgorge their passengers by the river from where they take a boat across the Tien River to Tuoi Son Island and Ben Tre where they can boat through boat canals, visit coconut candy factories, wander through fruit orchids and feast on fresh seafood. All of these things can be done independently — either by chartering your own boat, getting the car-ferry over to Ben Tre or by getting a boat across the river and just wandering around. Aim for being on the river by mid afternoon — say 3pm. That way, you’ll still be out when the light is great for pictures and long after the groups have left to return to Saigon. Regular buses to My Tho leave from Saigon’s Cho Lon bus station and the trip takes two hours.
Boat carrying sand from the riverbed
That’s me with a Burmese python
Small rowing boats take you through narrow canals
Traffic in the canals
Wrapping of candy
Mekong delta classic – elephant ear fish
Spirit with snakes, scorpions, etc – why not