Journeying through inland Southeast Asia means finding yourself in a maze of colonial buildings, zooming scooters, long bus rides and sailing through rivers. In this part of Asia, Mekong is the most popular river as its runs from the southern region of China down to Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and terminates through a complex river system out of Cambodia and Vietnam into the South China Sea.
Being the 12th longest river in the world that charts through 6 countries, its rich biodiversity has sustained a living for the millions of inhabitants that thrive on its banks. Since ancient times, the Mekong supplies water to irrigate the vast agricultural fields and food for its people. It creates communities and builds cultures.
Today, cruising along the Mekong River especially in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos has become a staple activity among tourists. In the recent decade since it opened its waters to foreign travelers, the river has become a convenient and scenic options to cross to other nearby countries.
In Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, all tour operators make this a stellar part of their daily wandering itineraries. Each day, tour buses bound for Mekong River choke the streets of Pham Ngu Lao. The tour takes you on a 3-hour mini bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City to jump-off towns like Cai Be or My Tho.
The Floating Market, a unique way of trading produce in Southeast Asia.
Rice paper production for that all-time favorite Spring Rolls!
Coconut candies are made by hand in Mekong.
Popped rice is a popular snack among the Vietnamese and many other countries in Southeast Asia.
The cruise opens with the Floating Market experience where farmers from surrounding towns trade their produce on wholesale with lowlander businessmen right on the waters of Mekong. The trip also takes you to riverbank communities where various local products are made such as coconut candies, popped rice, rice paper (for spring rolls), rice wine and harvested honey.
The highlight of the cruise is the paddled boat ride into the river’s narrow channels. It is a quiet sail floating through mangroves and palm trees. The grace of the Vietnamese rowers on its dug out boats breezing through the scenic tributaries of Mekong creates a wonderful image of a day in a Southeast Asian life.
The river cruise ends with a short walk in the progressive riverbank town of Vinh Long, way south of Vietnam. The Mekong Delta is the world’s largest freshwater fishery and charting your path on its water is truly a great way to experience the life and culture of the people that inhabit it.
Tour packages are widely offered in Ho Chi Minh.
Look for the best deals around Pham Ngu Lao as prices widely vary for exactly the same itinerary.
As scams are all over, make sure you don’t pay more than $20 per person for the regular daytrip, joining the common group tours.
Depending on your time availability, tours to Mekong may be: the basic, which is just cruising around floating market; the regular which includes visits to local communities and paddled boat ride; the luxury which allows you to sleep or camp in one of those riverbank villas or campsites. Discuss your plans with your tour operator.
Sinh Café along Pham Ngu Lao is mostly recommended but you may also try the smaller operators and compare the price. My My Arthouse Hostel in 219/8, Pham Ngu Lao also books this kind of tour at a very cheap price (from $6 per pax).
There are also tour packages that include overnight or several nights in Mekong and eventually ends up in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Ask your tour operator about it.
Betwixt and between the arthritic 40 and a horrendous body mass index of positive 30, escapism and yummyeology are my real-life double post-graduate degrees conferred with the highest honors.
I lived nearly half of my life in fancy suitcases, jetsetting between reality and fantasy... read more