When you visit the Mekong Delta, its swamplands, paddy fields and orchards, you may feel as if you are in the middle of a geography text book. It is a sizeable area that starts in Ho Chi Minh city and reaches all the way to the Gulf of Thailand. It is a true agricultural miracle: the landmass is just 10% of all of Vietnam, but it produces around 35% of the total food crop of the country. It is home, therefore, to various food produces, including rice, coconut palms, fruit and sugar cane. The region is known as Cuu Long to the Vietnamese, which means “Nine Dragons”, in reference to the nine tributaries of the river itself.
A Brief History
Few people know that agriculture is relatively new to the Mekong Delta. While it was still under Cambodian ruling until the end of the 17th century, it was virtually uninhabited. Some Khmer Krom did have some settlements, but these were few and far apart. By 1860, France had taken over the country and they discovered just how fertile the land was. Hence, they started to spur on Vietnamese peasants to work these fields. Interestingly, the field brought the French money, but they also brought it death, as the Viet Minh fighters were able to hide in it during the uprising. The same happened during the Vietnam War, when the Viet Cong was able to hide amongst it.
A Diverse Region
The Mekong Delta is a hugely diverse area that you will be able to appreciate it on organized Viking River Cruises. You will see children cycling to school or riding their water buffalo while wearing ao dai. At the same time, you will see what looks like a sea of emerald, with rice workers picking their crops. Or you can see stacks of beautifully colored fruits at the various markets and the production of sticks of bright yellow incense. And when night falls, the storks will start to circle the area for some true natural beauty as well.
Within the delta, there are a number of towns in which you will be able to find tourist facilities. Most of these are well off the beaten track, however. Consider My Tho for boat trips, which is also isn’t far from Ho Chi Minh City. Alternatively, you could consider Ben Tre, a truly laid back city with fruit orchards, or Cao Lanh, a true sanctuary for bird watchers. Sa Dec is where you will see the most beautiful and colorful flowers. Or you could visit Vinh Long to go a bit more out of the ordinary.
Can Tho is also very popular, as it is the highest settlement in the delta. There are some very decent restaurants and hotels here, so you can have a nice relax. From there, travel on to Ca Mau at the foot of the delta. Mui Ca Mau means “journey’s end”. On your way there, you can go to Soc Trang, the Khmer stronghold. If you are there in November or December, you may enjoy the Oc Om Bok festival, where beautiful longboat races are held by the Khmer population.