In my mind, the Mekong Delta has always rhymed with adventure. Never in the world I would have thought I’d be living an hour from there one day. When I bumped into Les Rives Experiences, I didn’t resist and booked us a day trip in the mythical jungle.
Living in such a big city as Ho Chi Minh can be overwhelming sometimes -an escape in the countryside is always welcome. And not any escape, this time. We hoped on a speedboat destination the mythical, legendary Mekong Delta. Ready to join us on a wild journey?
Not to be confused with the Mekong river that flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is a network of canals and rivers in southwestern Vietnam. From Ho Chi Minh, you can get there in about an hour, by boat or by car. If a two days trip (or even longer) is recommended to make the most of the region, there is also a beautiful day trip option...
Our day trip in the Mekong delta - with les rives experience
I’m not used to organised tours. We usually hop on a bike and explore by ourselves. So I’m not used to having a driver waiting for us down our place a 8am sharp on a Monday morning -tough way to start the week, isn’t it?! We drove to the pier in District 1, picking up other travellers on the way. Once we got there, everything went smoothly and in a minute, we were all on board, ready to explore.
The day starts with a breakfast on the boat -cheese croissants, banh mi and fresh fruits. We meet the crew : Hang, our guide, her assistant, the boat driver and the mechanic -always reassuring to know he’s here, just in case. We haven’t left the city banks yet that Hang is already sharing anecdotes about old buildings, local culture and even a little bit of history. We cruise along Ho Chi Minh City’s slums for about 40 minutes, before getting into the nature. If some may find it dirty and smelling -which it is-, we found it interesting to learn about the life in Ho Chi Minh City, including this life.
As Hang said : “You choose the Mekong Delta Day Tour with Les Rives, Authentic River Experience when you don’t want to see anything. No big tourist attraction, no perfect-postcard view, just the real life of Vietnam around the Mekong Delta.”
Getting into the deep jungle
Then in a second, the slums disappear to leave room to palm trees falling in the water, giant banana trees and colourful wooden boats. There we are. The Mekong Delta. The silence is beautiful. The driver stops the boat, and local coffee is served with quite a view! Iced, of course -with or without condensed milk, depending how local you dare to be!
The journey continues on the Mekong Delta’s green waters. It’s interesting how the colour of the river has changed since we left the city. The deepest we go into the Delta, the clearest it is.
discovering life on the mekong delta
From the river, never we would have guessed a temple was hidden behind that rusty little portal. Monks are praying, cooking and studying, without giving a glimpse at that little group of tourists that we are. There aren’t many travellers stopping here. Something catches my attention. In years exploring Asia, I’ve seen numerous temples -old ones, new ones, shiny ones, ruined ones. But I have never seen anything like that before. A 3 meters long dragons entirely made of fruits, leaves and spices, is attached to a big sculpture, surrounded by aquariums full of Koi. A piece of art. And nope, I won’t spoil it with photos.
Next stop: a local market. Impressed by the slums’ poverty, one of the ladies onboard is scarred to join us, she wants to stay on the boat. Hang explains that people won’t care about us AT ALL in the market, “plus, they know you won’t buy any chicken feet nor alive frogs”. Indeed, people are living their life, the market explodes with colours and odours, we meet them, get to know more about some of the spices and herbs and culinary traditions. Before leaving, we get some exotic fruits to taste later onboard.
The journey continues aboard our little boat...
The river gets more and more narrow…
After a beautiful cruise, we turn and stop by the bank, to get into a local family’s farmhouse. That’s what I call living in a remote place. The house is surrounded by lush jungle and immense rice paddies. It’s beautiful. Full of plants and flowers. And, for some reasons, some big cages in the entrance. I’m wandering around with my camera, taking photos, curious and amazed by the beauty of the place. Until I see the reason of the cages. Snakes. BIG snakes. I mean, 4 meters long pythons who, by the way, apparently just had lunch -yummy yummy ducks. People start petting and carrying them, while my heart basically stops beating -is it on me? It’s on my leg! It’s touching me! It’s gonna eat me alive!
Next, we’re walking in the rice fields, while I’m hopping to get as far as possible to these beasts -thinking these were domesticated, but how about the wild ones? Are there any here, living in the rice paddies? Of course there are. Luckily, the landscape is so stunning I quickly forget about my reptile friends.
We cross a tiny shop selling all kind of things, from petrol to lottery tickets -all the basics you need in the countryside, basically. Hang keeps on telling us about the lifestyle in the Mekong Delta, the people, the barking dogs who, no, won’t eat you and will actually run away if you keep walking. After a gorgeous walk, we get to the canal’s bank, where a beautiful surprise awaits : a bunch of authentic small wooden boats, ready to pick us up for a ride.
That’s when the magic gets real.
We’re cruising in our little rowboats, in the Mekong Delta. Three small boats with four amazed people in each of them. And that silence. At that precise moment, we’re fulfilling an old childhood dream of becoming an explorer in the jungle. Wa-hoo.
All these emotions start to make us hungry, so it’s the perfect time for a lunch break. A local family welcomes us into their farm house’s restaurant. Before eating, we start with fresh coconuts and “happy water” -as they like to call it here. By that, I mean local whisky -infused in herbs, bananas or other magical/secret ingredients. Then arrive the spring rolls, the shrimps, the elephant ear fish and the rest of the Vietnamese feast.
The journey continues to the one eye temple
Again, a temple like we’ve never seen before. Well, THAT’S what I call “off the beaten track”. In that rural village there aren’t anyone but locals. This Cao Dai Temple is a fusion of Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism and a few other religions. It’s an explosion of colours, surrounded by bonsais, trees and flowers. After a visit, we pass by the school next door, then hop on our speed boat one last time. From there, we get to Ho Chi Minh City pier in a short hour -half of us sleeping, including myself obviously.
We arrive in the city tired by the thrills, the sunshine and the ride. So it’s a real joy to see the car awaits us, to drop us back home. We couldn’t have dream about a better organisation. I still cannot believe we’ve seen all that in just a day.
a mekong delta day trip with Les Rives - Authentic River Experience : what you need to know
Itinerary : Ho Chi Minh Pier - Tuong Van Pagoda - local market - Mekong Delta - Thu Thua area - traditional farmhouse - orphanage run by Buddhist monks - Cao Dai Temple - back to Saigon
Price : 2,499,000VND/adult - 1,799,000VND/children under 12 years old
Included : Light breakfast, lunch, unlimited refreshments and local fruits, English-speaking guide, all entrance fees, pickup and drop off at centrally located hotels, wifi onboard
The guide : Hang was the highlight of our trip! Great energy, countless anecdotes… we didn’t expect to learn so much about the region in a day.
The organisation : Faultless. We had the pick up at 8:00am, and were back home at 4pm. Lots of lovely attentions during the trip, no rush, no stress.
The boat : A speedboat, with approx. 15 people on it, and small wooden boat in the canals, with only 4 people per boat.
The advantages : The big + of choosing Les Rives Experience for a day trip in the Mekong Delta is the fact that you’ll (really) go for the path less traveled. I was amazed to see only local wooden boats, but not even one speedboat with westerners like ours. That’s what made our journey feel so special.
What to bring : Sunscreen, water spray if you can’t bear the heat, mosquito repellent (event though I didn’t see any).
Babies & Kids : We were happy we didn’t take Noah on this adventure as he’s only two, and he would have got bored and too hot. It’s probably good for kids from 7 years old + I guess.
Thank you Les Rives -Authentic River Experience for hosting us. Our Mekong Delta Day Tour was sponsored, but my opinion is my own -and as I said above, I’m the one who reached the company to work together, as I had the feeling it would be special…