Asia,  Destinations,  Travel Diary,  Vietnam

Day tour to Mekong River Delta

After traveling down the northern part of the Mekong via slow boat in Laos, I wanted to explore the southern part aka the Mekong River Delta. I booked a day tour through my hostel (Alleyway Hostel) for $25 USD.

Journal date: November 25, 2023

Well…it was a VERY touristy tour.

With these group tours, it’s hit-or-miss on how big the groups are and where they take you. Sometimes you get a small group and your guide knows how to navigate between the biggest tour groups to get you to a good location for photos. (See: my day tour in Da Lat experience.)

Other times you’re in a big group in a big bus and you run into other big buses of tourists all visiting the same spots you are, a bit like cattle being herded.

This tour ended up being the latter kind, though I think we only had 15-20 people total in our bus. It did include a (really good!) lunch, two snacks, and entry tickets for everything, including the boat ride(s).

Mekong Delta Day Tour Itinerary

Here’s where we went on the tour:

Ving Tranh Pagoda

Normally we’d have stopped here on the way back into town, but our tour guide said that it’d be less crowded if we did it first thing in the morning. It was still fairly crowded, and HOT, and I felt very grumpy and unimpressed with the whole thing.

Turns out part of the problem was they were doing construction on part of the temple, so much of the grounds were closed off. All we could get to was a small part, with some of the larger statues. Oh well!

Boat to Unicorn Island

We then boarded a boat to go down the river, passing Dragon Island, Unicorn Island, Phoenix Island, and Turtle Island. Our guide explained a bit of the history of the river and the people who live there, and the importance of those four mythical creatures and their significance to Vietnamese culture.

Shockingly, the Mekong River water is actually clear! It looks brown from the boat, but our guide put a bottle in and showed that actually it’s very clear water.

Honey farm & coconut candy workshop

Once we got to Unicorn Island, we disembarked and went to a coconut candy workshop where the workers demonstrated how the coconut milk and meat was extracted and processed to make candy. We also got a taste test! It was pretty good, actually.

Next was over to the honey farm, where once again we saw a demonstration of bee/honey products. We had a special tea, honey-something or other banana chips, and a spoonful royal jelly. I did end up buying some banana chips to have as a snack on the way back to HCMC.

Canal boat ride

This was maybe my favorite part of the tour! We went over to another place and then boarded tiny rowboats driven by older ladies in big hats. They took us down the river a short ways and then came back up the same way, dropping up off for lunch.

Lunch

Lunch was REALLY good. It was served family style, with big plates of food available for everyone to take. That fish in the back was presented like that, and then they took it to the back and brought out fish spring rolls. I liked this meal a lot, actually.

My photo actually doesn’t show all the food; some more came out after I took it. There was enough for all 8 of us to have and enjoy.

Fruit snack and singing

We went…somewhere else on the island (where??) to have a snack of fresh fruit and be sung at by local singers in costumes. It was VERY cheesy, and surrounding the dining area was a market filled with cheap plastic souvenirs.

After the signing, we got put onto large golf carts and taken in a large circle around the neighborhood. I’m not sure what the point of this was but it did take up some time, at least.

Then we got back on the boat to head to the mainland, and back on the bus to head back to Saigon.

Final thoughts

I gotta be honest, I didn’t enjoy how crowded the tour spots were, or how FAST everything was, or how much selling there was compared to historical info. If you’re really, really short on time, this would be a decent way to squeeze in the highlights of the area. However, I think it does a disservice to the beauty of the Mekong Delta, because you’re going so fast through it and spend most of your time at places to buy souvenirs.

The downside of starting the tour in HCMC is that you’re 2 hours away from the Delta, so you have quite a far distance to get there and back in one day. I think this led to the feeling of being rushed, because we had to fit everything in a short amount of time. If I was going to do it again, I’d go down closer to the Delta on my own and stay for a few days, and possibly book a private tour guide instead.


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Some other day tour experiences I’ve been on in Vietnam…

Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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