1. May 2018. If you’re in Ho Chi Minh, or indeed anywhere in the south of Vietnam, you’re almost certainly thinking about a visit to the country’s iconic Mekong Delta region, an intricate maze of rivers and swamps encompassed by rice paddies and dense jungle. For many a river cruise here is one of Vietnam’s major highlights and right enough there are a glut of operators offering a wide array of options. Just a skim through all the online reviews reveals all kinds of situations you don’t want to find yourself in, with shady operators packing people into unfit boats like sardines, more often than not with a limited time on the Mekong’s waterways in favor of a steady stream of souvenir shops. Luckily for me one of Ho Chi Minh’s most reputable companies had a stand in my hotel lobby. So I signed up with Deluxe Group Tours and took their Insight Mekong Delta Tour. Initial signs were very positive, with around ten of us boarding a spacious wooden motor boat.
2. May 2018. I’d heard that certain stretches of The Mekong can get pretty congested, with all manner of boats having to swerve around each other in the more popular parts. Happily for us we were able to gaze out at an unblemished section of the river located in Bentre Province, about ninety kilometres from the city. Leaning over the rail to take it all in, I was handed a large, green coconut fitted with a straw and told to enjoy some juice while we cruised. After all, this part of The Mekong is apparently home to thousands of coconut trees.
3. May 2018. Our English-speaking guide did a great job leading us through the day’s itinerary, which included a number of fascinating stops that I’ll cover in more detail in my upcoming articles. He also patiently made sure we all got those choice photos, such as this in one of the many narrow canalways.
4. May 2018. This was the Mekong Delta I’d wanted to see ever since I’d been entranced by Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning movie Apocalypse Now. In fact, I couldn’t help but feel just a little edgy as a clump of nearby branches shook a little in the afternoon breeze.
5. May 2018. Excluding the tour’s stops, we spent a solid two hours or so on the actual water that day. The final leg on the way back to the bus came on a flat-bottomed sampan boat rowed by a local man. Yes, he expected a tip! And just for the record, the traditional conical hat isn’t just for a bit of photogenic fun, it is DAMN HOT out there on the Mekong and believe me, you’ll be needing this to protect your noggin!
My daylong Insight Mekong Delta cruise with Deluxe Group Tours cost $45 and featured fascinating stops at Nhon Thanh Brickmaking Village, Nhon Thanh Coconut Workshop and a hearty lunch at Nhon Thanh Village. We also hit Vinh Trang Pagoda on the drive back to Ho Chi Minh. They’ll pick you up by minivan from your hotel somewhere between 08:00-08:30 and you’ll return at about 17:00. Anyone who knows me will attest that I’m more than capable of being a complainer when the opportunity arises, but I can honestly say that with these guys you’re in good hands. For more information pay them a visit at: https://www.deluxegrouptours.vn
For more on the region check out my guide on what to see and do in Ho Chi Minh.
Or maybe delve further afield for My 5s from all across Vietnam.