We don’t usually take guided tours when we travel, preferring to DIY wherever possible. We had intended to catch a bus to Can Tho and from there meander our way through the Delta for a few days, but after spending longer than planned in Saigon decided to make up for lost time and take a 48 hour tour.
The downside to tours is you’re stuck with someone else’s itinerary; the upside is you don’t waste time seeking out accommodation, working out where to go, and organising how to get there (and back). Also, good tour guides can impart a lot of local knowledge that is not readily accessible to the independent traveller – especially in a place like Vietnam, where so few people outside the hospitality industry speak English.
My posts have been wordy so far, but pics beat textual description of the unique environment of the Mekong Delta, so here ya go:
The Delta is an incredibly fertile area that yields the most glorious produce. I had some fresh-cut pineapple that no superlatives can do justice to. I’ve tasted good pineapple in SE Asia before, but nothing close to this. It was so far superior to the acidic, tongue-ulcer-inducing Aussie variety that it might as well have been a different fruit.
Going by what we saw of the fresh produce sold daily at the street markets of Can Tho and Vinh Long, the quality of the local fruit and veges is outstanding across the range. As it is throughout Vietnam generally…
I had imagined the Delta to be verdant and lush, bursting with jungley fecundity – something like a Rousseau rain forest painting. Another expectation that was way off the mark! The dominant hues of the landscape are browns, greys and dull greens. I enjoyed my time there, though. It was truly exotic, almost otherworldly (and the local tradition of erecting graves of the dead in the middle of the family paddy field, or in the case of deceased business owners, on their work premises, added to the weirdness).
If we’d had more time – much more – I would have liked to have seen more of the region, but looking back, taking the 48 hour tour was the right move. Excellent value @ $35 including transport, overnight accommodation, boat tours and visit to a floating market, English-speaking guide, and return trip to Saigon. Recommended, unless you have a particular interest in exploring the Delta more extensively. We went through Singh Tours.
One gripe: the locals treat their wonderfully bounteous waterways as a drain. The water is naturally murky with mud and silt, which I suspect covers a multitude of littering sins. Rubbish can be seen floating on the surface as you chug along in your tourist boat, and there is lots of discarded crap washing around against the shore. During a trip to a floating market near Can Tho, we saw a guy who was painting the mast of his fishing boat tip half a can of green paint overboard.
This apparent disregard for the environment is not confined to the Mekong Delta, unfortunately. Nha Trang, reputedly one of Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches, is severely compromised by the refuse in the water (I wouldn’t swim there), and I believe the situation is similar in other coastal resort areas. This is something the Vietnamese need to address post haste. Their land serves them up abundant choice produce, and defiling it as they currently do is short-sighted to say the least. They owe their land, their burgeoning tourist industry – and themselves – more respect.
More posts in this series on Vietnam:
Travels in Vietnam 2011: Intro
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Saigon
Travels In Vietnam 2011: The Cu Chi Tunnels
Travels In Vietnam 2011: War Remnants Museum, Saigon
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Dalat
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Nha Trang
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Hoi An
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Sleeper Bus Nightmare!
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Hue
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Eating and Drinking!
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Hype vs Reality
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Reflections & Wrap-up