A popular thing to do while in Ho Chi Minh City is a one or two day Mekong Delta tour. Essentially a large area of multiple rivers, lush greenery, houses on stilts, little villages, and floating markets, the Mekong Delta claims to be a breath of fresh air from the hectic streets of Ho Chi Minh. However, after organizing a two-day trip around the Mekong Delta, the tour was far from what we had anticipated. While we had high hopes of this being one of the highlights of our trip to Vietnam, it unfortunately turned out to be a disappointment mainly because everything we did was incredibly touristy and did not feel genuine. If you’re debating whether to go on this tour, keep reading for my full Mekong Delta Tour review and itinerary of day 1.
Boat to Unicorn Island
After a long 3-4 hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City, we made it to My Tho where we would then be taking a quick boat trip to Unicorn Island. Along the river there were many beautiful houses on stilts, but apart from that, there wasn’t much else to see or be impressed by.
Unicorn Island – Honey Tasting, Tea & Fruit, and Traditional Vietnamese Singing
After we got off the boat, we sat down at various tables and were served a honey tea, as there is a bee farm in the area. While the tea and honey were good, there was obviously a bit of a catch; they wanted you to buy the honey. We then walked over to a sitting area where fruit and tea was provided while a group of local Vietnamese musicians and singers played traditional songs that are only performed in this area of Vietnam. This bit was quite strange as we were all sitting there uncomfortable listening to unknown (and, if I’m honest, a little strange) music. When they were finished singing and it was time to move on, a tip basket was brought around; again, a bit awkward for those like myself who didn’t plan on tipping.
Boat Ride through the Canals
We then walked to where we be taken on a small paddle boat ride along the canals. While this initially sounded really nice, there was a queue of about 50 people before us and the canals were cramped with boats and their rowers taking people along the water. After about 5 minutes of paddling into the canals, it thankfully became more peaceful and enjoyable. The ride lasted about 15 minutes and took us back to our main tour group boat, where we then set off to Ben Tre Province.
Ben Tre Province – Coconut Candy
At around 12:30 we made our way towards this tiny coconut candy production area. These coconut candies are made predominately in Ben Tre Province, giving this area the nickname of “Land of Coconut” by Vietnamese. While there, we were able to watch how the candy was made, how it was packaged, and you could buy the coconut candy which came in a variety of flavours: chocolate, peanut butter, plain, etc. The candies themselves are chewy and are actually quite tasty, however, by this point we were all starving and just wanted to go eat lunch.
Phoenix Island – Lunch
Back on the boat, we made our way a short distance to Phoenix Island where we would be eating lunch (along with every other tour group on the Mekong Delta 1-day tour). Lunch was provided, though if you wanted to order certain special delicacies, like Elephant Ear Fish, or drink anything, you had to pay extra for that. Unfortunately, the provided lunch was pretty pitiful (as you can clearly see in the picture); there wasn’t much food at all and it tasted mediocre at best. I advise you to bring plenty of snacks to munch on throughout the day.
Mekong Delta Tour Review: End of Day 1
If you’re only doing the day tour of the Mekong Delta, you will hop back on the bus to go back to Saigon. However, if you’re doing the 2-day trip, you will take a bus further into the Mekong Delta to Can Tho where you will be spending the night. What should have been a 2 or so hour journey to Can Tho turned into a 4+ hour journey and we didn’t arrive in the city until well after dark. What really surprised me was how big of a city Can Tho is – I was expecting to be spending the night in a smaller village* as a means to really experience life in the Mekong Delta. We walked around for a bit looking for a restaurant to eat at (which proved more difficult than expected) and afterwards just went back to our hotel, as we were utterly spent after such a long day.
*You can actually choose to stay in a homestay instead of spending the night in a hotel at an additional fee.
My experience of the Mekong Delta Tour Review Day 2 will be posted shortly!