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 are going to look like. Based off of pinterest, perhaps it is something like this?
Well, as your friend, I am 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 Vietnam, and I am fairly certain all of those photos were taken in Thailand.
The Mekong River is seriously suffering from something I like to call Vietnam Tourism Syndrome. Da heck is that? Allow me to explain...
As I have alluded to in some of my other posts, the injection of tourism into Vietnam has had some..... ahem..... interesting manifestations. In Vietnam, tourism is a big, fat, juicy pie made of western money, and everybody wants a slice.
Here is the deal: 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.
Yes, there are sights and photo opportunities, but they are spread out. To get to them, you are going to need time, a vehicle, and someone who knows what they are doing.
This is where the tours (and the money making for locals) come in.
For the most part, all tours that go through the Delta are the same. The Mekong Delta, a spot on the tourist route, has a tourist route of its own.
Taste some honey, see coconut candy be 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.
Don't expect to see many locals. You are deep, deep in tourist country at this point. The small shanty 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 reviewing my tour company and the 2 days I spent with 30 other tourists, although I could easily could do that. It is about attempting to enlighten others to the fact that the Mekong River Delta isn't Halong Bay. It isn't a beautiful Vietamese wonderland. It is an expansive, rural, working class sector of Vietnam.
I want to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with that. Just know that the parts of the Mekong Delta you will visit exists to make money off of you. To see the real Mekong Delta... you would need some serious patience and a private guide. End of story. Most people book a tour and get the same, crappy Mekong Delta experience.
Now, for the offensive part. Those sights and photo opportunities they take you to? Well, to add insult to injury, they are kinda meh. Mediocre at best. They look like Vietnam. If you have spent any time in the country before this, you'll just kinda be like, "yes, and what else?"
The floating market? Boats. The local factories? Gift shops. The river cruise? Muddy water and boats.
There is nothing wrong with the Mekong Delta. It is another unique region of the incredibly diverse country Vietnam... but all this goddamn hype about it being the best and the most beautiful and a must see? Now, we all know that isn't true. It is another part of Vietnam. End of story.
Worth the hype? No. The things you will see in a one or two day tour of the Mekong Delta are nothing special. 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.