Is Vietnam's Mekong River Delta Worth the Hype?

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Alright. Woof. Time to offend some people.

So. You're going to Vietnam and you want to visit all the places people buzz about.  You have a list. Sapa. Hanoi. Hoi An. Halong Bay... and, of course, today's focus: the Mekong River Delta.

You probably have an image in your head of what the Mekong River, and its fabulous floating markets look like.

Based off of pinterest, perhaps it is something like this? 

Well, as your friend, I'm here to let you know that the Mekong River Delta doesn't look like that. Lemme save you some heartbreak and give it to you straight (like no one did for me): the Mekong River Delta looks like... the rest of Vietnam.  (And I am fairly certain all of those photos were taken in Thailand.)

As I have alluded to in some of my other posts, the injection of tourism into Vietnam has had some, ahem, interesting manifestations. Tourism is a big, fat, juicy pie made of western money, and everybody wants a slice.

What you don't realize: the Mekong Delta is the entire southwest region of the country.  I know you saw a picture of a tiny boat market and think that is it, but that is not the case.  It is a gigantic region, and guess what- it looks like Vietnam.

mekong river delta, vietnam - m.quigley

mekong river delta, vietnam - m.quigley

Yes, there are some sights and photo opportunities, but they are spread out.  To get to them, you're going to need time, a vehicle, and someone who knows what they are doing. 

This is where tours (and the money making) comes in. 

For the most part, all the tours that go through the Delta are the same.  The Mekong Delta - a spot on Vietnam tourist route - has a tourist route of its own.  

You'll taste honey, see coconut candy being made, cruise on the water, see a temple, take a picture with a snake, see rice paper get made... and, of course, visit the floating markets.

rice noodle making, vietnam - m.quigley

rice noodle making, vietnam - m.quigley

You are deep in tourist country at this point.  The small homes you zoom past on your way to the next stop?  That is the real Mekong Delta, and you won't be seeing it.

This post isn't about roasting my tour company, although I could easily could do that.  It's about enlightening that the Mekong River Delta isn't Halong Bay.  It isn't a small area you can check off.  It's an expansive and rural sector of Vietnam.

I want to make it clear that there's nothing wrong with that.  Just know that the parts of the "Mekong Delta" that are accessible to you are mostly tourist spots.  To see the real Mekong Delta... you would need some serious patience and a private guide.  Most people book a tour and get the same (kinda crappy) Mekong Delta experience. 

To add insult to injury, the sights and photo opportunities are kinda meh. Mediocre at best.  If you've spent any time in the country before this, you'll just be like, "Yes, and what else?" 

mekong river, vietnam - m.quigley

mekong river, vietnam - m.quigley

There is nothing wrong with the Mekong Delta.  It is another unique part of a diverse and beautiful country... but all this goddamn hype about it being the best and the most beautiful and a must see?

Now, we know that isn't true.  

Worth the hype? No. Your time is better spent elsewhere.

If you have a lot of time and a local guide, I am sure you could have an incredible experience. If you do, please email me and tell me about it!

End note: The only redeemable part of my tour was the Tra Su Forest.  That really is something special, but it is very deep into the Delta and not many tours make it there unless they are headed to Cambodia. Although it is beautiful, the tour is short, so probably not worth going out of your way for unless you are going to Cambodia next. 

Keep reading:

tra su forest, vietnam - m.quigley

tra su forest, vietnam - m.quigley

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