Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Vietnam has two big deltas, the Red River delta in the North and the Mekong delta in the South, this Mekong delta region is formed by the various tributaries of the mighty Mekong River which begins its journey to the sea in Tibet and winds its way for 4500 km through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Southern Vietnam.
The Mekong Delta (Vietnamese: Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long "Nine Dragon river delta"), also known as the Western Region (Vietnamese: Miền Tây or the South-western region (Vietnamese: Tây Nam Bộ) is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries.
The Vietnamese name for the Mekong is Cuu Long which means "nine estuaries" and this is represented by the nine exit points of the Mekong River as it flows into the sea. The land of the Mekong Delta is renowned for its richness. Known as Vietnam's breadbasket, it produces enough rice to feed the entire country with a sizable surplus leftover. Take a sampan ride that meanders through small villages and experience the simple lives of the Mekong people.
The Mekong Delta has been dubbed as a "biological treasure trove". Over 1,000 animal species were recorded between 1997 and 2007 and new species of plants, fish, lizards, and mammals has been discovered in previously unexplored areas, including the Laotian rock rat, thought to be extinct.
Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road.
The region is home to "cải lương", a form of Kinh/Vietnamese folk opera.
There are over a dozen towns in the delta with facilities for tourists, though some are rarely visited as they are not on the way to anywhere. My Tho is well geared up for boat trips, and near enough to Ho Chi Minh City to be seen on a day-trip: it affords an appetizing glimpse of the delta’s northernmost tributary, the Tien Giang. From My Tho, laidback Ben Tre and the bounteous fruit orchards besieging it are only a hop and a skip away. Cao Lanh is strictly for bird enthusiasts, but Sa Dec, with its timeless river scenes and riotously colourful flower nurseries, has a more universal appeal, while just down the road, Vinh Long is another jumping-off point for boat trips.
Many visitors spend a day or two in Can Tho, the delta’s biggest settlement, to take advantage of its decent hotels and restaurants and to recharge batteries before venturing out to the floating markets nearby. From Can Tho, there’s something to be said for dropping down to the foot of the delta, where the swampland that surrounds Ca Mau can be explored by boat, and Mui Ca Mau signals journey’s end in Vietnam. Pulling up, en route, at the Khmer stronghold of Soc Trang is especially rewarding if your trip coincides with the colourful Oc Om Bok festival (Nov or Dec), during which the local Khmer community takes to the river to stage spectacular longboat races. Northwest of Can Tho meanwhile, and a stone’s throw from the Cambodian border, is the ebullient town of Chau Doc, south of which Sam Mountain provides a welcome undulation in the surrounding plains. The opening of the border here has brought a steady stream of travellers going on to Phnom Penh by boat, and several of them rest up a few days here before leaving the country.
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Ha Tien, a remote border town surrounded by Khmer villages, is the best place to hop on a boat to Phu Quoc.