River tours in the Mekong Delta

River tours in the Mekong Delta

There are many ways to explore the hinterland of Vietnam's lush Mekong Delta. Tours of this vicinity range from luxurious boat cruises to cycle tours to cross-country hiking. The latter are popular because the terrain is quite flat, and the roads are all in reasonable condition. But because the whole of the southwestern region of the country is criss-crossed by the Mekong's nine main tributaries and various canals, travelling by boat is undoubtedly the best way to visit the delta.

The good news for cyclists and hikers is that a large number of the passenger boats and cruise ships go out of their way to cater for these modes of transport. They offer facilities that allow cyclists or bakers to bring their vehicles on board, allowing them to use boats to navigate the more awkward parts of the waterlogged landscape. Many of the traditional sampans will also welcome bicycles on-board their little vessels, thus making allowances for the fact that the bike remains the staple form of transport in Vietnam – even in areas where there are abundant rivers and canals!

Much of the Mekong Delta gives the impression of having frozen in time. Sampans still float gracefully along the rivers, with fishermen persisting in their centuries old traditions. Farmers still use water buffalo to help them cultivate the rice fields. Throughout the dense covering of trees and mangroves, you will glimpse ancient pagodas and temples.

The actual vessels plying their trade on this river vary considerably. As mentioned, there are small sampans that allow you to gain an authentic feel for the river as you slowly coast along, a matter of inches above the rippling surface. Closer to the Gulf of Thailand, there are large ocean-going cruise ships, complete with bars and five star restaurants. The latter is surely one of the best ways to view life on the Mekong Delta. As you take your comfortable seat in the panoramic bar, you can enjoy cocktails while watching the world go by.

The more intrepid visitors often take the opportunity to actually get into the Mekong River. Scuba diving is very popular in many Vietnamese locations, but especially the Mekong Delta resorts, or the beaches south of Ho Chi Minh City, and around the town of Vung Tau. There are many interesting indigenous species of wildlife that can be viewed in the delta, although the waters can be fairly muddy, so the serious scuba divers tend to gravitate further north, especially to Ha Long Bay.

The costal resorts cater for a wide variety of activities. Scuba diving is just one of these; your hotels will also be able to point you in the direction of a range of watersports. If you would prefer to simply relax on the beach, then there are miles and miles of golden sands to be enjoyed. Golf is also available at the Paradise Golf Resort. One of Vietnam's best golf courses, this boasts 27 holes. Many of these are played while overlooking the azure grandeur of the South China Sea.