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Dive Into the Delta

By: Tim Russell Posted: July-14-2010 in
Ben Tre fishermen by Tim Russell
Tim Russell

With the recent opening of the Trung Luong Highway, the Mekong Delta is now a mere 90 minutes’ drive away from HCMC. Yet given its proximity to the metropolis, allied with its sleepy, laid-back ambience, its friendly people and its beautiful countryside, it’s amazing that so few HCMC expats bother to spend much time down there.

I suspect it’s because we all visit the Delta soon after arriving in Vietnam, usually on a rushed one-day tour being dragged from one fake ‘tourist village’ to another, and end up wondering what all the fuss is about. The fact that there is little in the way of decent accommodation in the region doesn’t help either.

And yet for a weekend break, the Delta has a lot more going for it than some of southern Vietnam’s more popular expat destinations. It’s a lot quicker to get to than Mui Ne for example, and it’s certainly a lot nicer and friendlier than Vung Tau.

Avoid the tourist traps of My Tho and Vinh Long, and you’re unlikely to bump into another tourist during your visit. Ben Tre province, for example, is within 2 hours’ drive thanks to the new highway and the stunning new Rach Mieu suspension bridge, and offers gorgeous scenery, quiet waterways and a pace of life barely comprehensible to HCMC dwellers.

Head a bit further down to Tra Vinh and you have the Delta’s Khmer heartland, a charming town dotted with Khmer temples, including spectacular Hang Pagoda with its hundreds of nesting storks.

Further west you have Sa Dec, former home of French novelist Marguerite Duras and still boasting some wonderful colonial architecture, as well as the famous flower village which supplies most of HCMC’s florists.

Regional capital Can Tho is famed for its bustling Cai Rang floating market, but it’s also a fascinating place to stay in its own right, with lively riverside restaurants and cafes and, in the Victoria Can Tho, one of only two luxury resorts in the whole region – the other being the Victoria Chau Doc, another must-see town close to the Cambodian border, and the departure point for speedboats to Phnom Penh should you wish to extend your trip into Cambodia.

Cambodia is also accessible via Ha Tien, the region’s westernmost point and arguably its most beautiful town – head across the border and you’re ideally placed for visiting southern Cambodia’s beaches and islands, or make the short trip along the coast to Rach Gia for hydrofoils onward to Phu Quoc Island.

So next time you’re planning a weekend away, don’t head to the same old beach resort – dive deep into the Delta and experience southern Vietnam at its friendliest, its most relaxed, and its most natural.

Tim Russell is Managing Director of Come & Go Vietnam. He can be contacted at tim [at] comeandgovietnam [dot] com

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