Mekong Delta

Geography of Mekong delta

The Mekong Delta, as a region, lies immediately to the west of Ho Chi Minh City, roughly forming a triangle stretching from Mỹ Tho in the east to Châu Đốc and Hà Tiên in the northwest, down to Cà Mau and the South China Sea at the southernmost tip of Vietnam, and including the island of Phú Quốc.
Mekong Delta

Ca Mau

The Mekong Delta region of Vietnam displays a variety of physical landscapes, ranging from mountains and highlands to the north and west to broad, flat flood plains in the south.

The land of the Mekong Delta is renowned for it richness and almost haft of it is under cultivation. The area is known as : ‘Vietnam’ basket of rice’. The Mekong Delta produce enough rice to feed the entire country.

Other products from this region are: coconuts, sugar cane, fruits, fishes and prawns. Also this is the primary rural area, it is one of the most densely populated regions in Vietnam.

 The Mekong Delta is one of the greatest River in the world. And its Delta is one of the world’s largest.

The Mekong Delta originated from Tibetan plateau, flowing 4500 km through china, Between Myanmar and Laos, Along Laos and Thai border, and through Cambodia and Vietnam on It ways to East Sea of Vietnam. At Phnom Penh ( Cambodia) It splits in to two braches: The Upper Mekong ( Also call the Bassac River, which flow via Chau Doc, Long Xuyen and Can Tho to the sea; and the Tien Giang (Upper River), which split in to several branches at Vinh Long and empties it in to the sea at five points. The numerous braches of the river explain the Vietnamese name for The Mekong: Song Cuu Long ( River of nine dragons)

The water flow in to the Mekong Delta begin to rise at the end of May and reaches to its highest point around September. its ranges from 1900 to 38000 cubic meter person second depend on the season.

The Major activities in the Mekong river is boating. Indeed, the only way you are really to get closed to the Mekong River id to tour through the canal by boat.

The typical tours to Mekong Delta could take you about 2 to 4 days depend on the places you want to go.

Normally the tour will go to Can Tho where you can see the biggest floating market in Vietnam ( May be biggest one in the world) or Vinh long where you can enjoy hone stay as well as tour to Cai Be floating market.

However, if you have such a short time it is still worth to take a day trip to My Tho.

In fact, there is so much to see and do in Mekong Delta area as: You can discover the floating markets in Cai Rang or the sleepy colonial town Sa Dec, which is still a real insider tip and so far rarely visited by tourists. Typical sights in the Mekong delta are also many floating houses such as in Chau Doc. Under these houses the inhabitants cultivate fish and shrimps in nets and wire baskets.

In our Mekong Delta Travel Guide you will not only find information about the tourist spots such as Can Tho and My Tho, but also about particularly beautiful spots in the delta, which are still a hidden gem and not known by many tourists, such as Ben Tre and Ca Mau.

Mekong Delta

Cai Be

The Travel Guide also contains information on activities in the delta and valuable tips for nature and bird lovers, who will definitely enjoy a trip in the Mekong region, since there are numerous bird sanctuaries, swamplands or mangrove forests, such as the Tra Su forest.

There is an option of taking a tour to Vinh Long, Can Tho and then to Chau Doc to take the speed boat to Phnom Penh (Cambodia).

History of Mekong delta

The Mekong Delta was likely inhabited long since prehistory; the empire of Funan and later Chenla maintained a presence in the Mekong Delta for centuries.

Can Tho

Can Tho

The region was known as Khmer Krom (lower Khmer, or lower Cambodia) to the Khmer Empire, which likely maintained settlements there centuries before its rise in the 11th and 12th centuries.(Mekong Delta) The kingdom of Champa, though mainly based along the coast of the South China Sea, is known to have expanded west into the Mekong Delta, seizing control of Prey Nokor (the precursor to modern-day Ho Chi Minh City) by the end of the 13th century.[nb 2] Author Nghia M. Vo suggests that a Cham presence may indeed have existed in the area prior to Khmer occupation.

Beginning in the 1620s, Khmer king Chey Chettha II (1618–1628) allowed the Vietnamese to settle in the area, and to set up a custom house at Prey Nokor, which they colloquially referred to as Sài Gòn.[4] The increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers which followed overwhelmed the Khmer kingdom—weakened as it was due to war with Thailand—and slowly Vietnamized the area. During the late 17th century, Mac Cuu, a Chinese anti-Qing general, began to expand Vietnamese and Chinese settlements deeper into Khmer lands, and in 1691, Prey Nokor was occupied by the Vietnamese.

Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyễn Lords of Huế by sea in 1698 to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the area.[5] This act formally detached the Mekong Delta from Cambodia, placing the region firmly under Vietnamese administrative control. Cambodia was cut off from access to the South China Sea, and trade through the area was possible only with Vietnamese permission.[3] During the Tay Son wars and the subsequent Nguyễn Dynasty, Vietnam’s boundaries were pushed as far as the Cape of Ca Mau. In 1802, Nguyễn Ánh crowned himself emperor Gia Long and unified all the territories comprising modern Vietnam, including the Mekong Delta.

Upon the conclusion of the Cochinchina Campaign in the 1860s, the area became Cochinchina, France’s first colony in Vietnam, and later, part of French Indochina.[6] Beginning during the French colonial period, the French patrolled and fought on the waterways of the Mekong Delta region with their Divisions navales d’assaut (Dinassaut), a tactic which lasted throughout the First Indochina War, and was later employed by the US Navy Mobile Riverine Force. During the Vietnam War—also referred to as the Second Indochina War—the Delta region saw savage fighting between Viet Cong (NLF) guerrillas and units of the United States Navy’s swift boats and hovercrafts (PACVs).

Following independence from France, the Mekong Delta was part of the Republic of Vietnam and eventually the country of Vietnam. In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge regime attacked Vietnam in an attempt to reconquer the Delta region. This campaign precipitated the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and subsequent downfall of the Khmer Rouge.

The life of people in Mekong delta :

The Mekong Delta is the bottom half of Vietnam’s two rice baskets, the other being the Red River Delta in the North . This vast delta is formed by the deposition of the multiple tentacles and tributaries of the mighty Mekong River which has its origin in the Tibetan highland plateau 2,800 miles away. From its source, the river makes its way through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam before flowing out into the South China Sea.

Life On The Mekong

The Mekong Delta was an ancient Khmer territory. The area was mostly marshland and forest. When the Nguyen Lords took control of this region, a series of canals were built and a system of transportation was implemented in the maze of water ways in the area.
The Mekong Delta is divided into 9 provinces: Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Dong Thap, An Giang, Vinh Long, Kien Giang, Hau Giang and Minh Hai. The people in this region are made up of Vietnamese and some people of Khmer, Chinese and Cham origin. This accounts for the variety of religions that add to the cultural diversity of this area. Among the religions practiced here are: Buddhism, Catholicism, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and Islam.

Mekong Delta

Life On The River

The southwest region of Vietnam is known for the vast rice fields and the huge plantations that make up the core of this region’s economy. The region is also known for the many miles of waterways criss-crossing the land making this area both fertile and unique.

Fruit Orchards in Mekong Delta

The majority of Vietnam’s fruits come from the many orchards of the Mekong Delta. On any given season, one can find a variety of tropical fruits that are produced by farmers of this region in the markets of Saigon, Hue, and Ha Noi.

Mekong Delta

Fruit Orchards

For many tropical fruits, the season is very short because they cannot be picked green and they don’t last long in storage where they quickly loose their aroma. The greatest variety of fruits is available during the raining season, from June to September in the South.
After they are picked, the fruits are transported on small boats to floating markets where they are sold to wholesale dealers. In the off-season, many orchards become flower nurseries to meet the peak demand for flowers during the new year celebration in the big cities.
The orchards are divided by a myriad of small irrigation canals with delicate bamboo bridges called “Cau Khi” or monkey bridges crossing them.

Life On The Mekong Delta

The people living in the Mekong Delta make their living as farmers and fishermen. Often, they live right on the edge of the rivers or canals on various structures built from whatever materials found. Consequently, the architecture along the delta varies from place to place.
Often, many homes have fisheries right under them. Enterprising individuals build a cage like structure of bamboo beneath their homes on these waterways to house fishes. As the fishes grew, they sell the whole batch to processors from the city and start with new ones.
Life in the delta is tightly woven with its rivers as daily activities and businesses are conducted on its banks. Markets, stores, ship yards, repair shops are some of the more popular trades.

Floating Markets on Mekong Delta

Floating markets are held every morning from 5:00 to about 11:00. Phung Hiep market is the biggest since it is located at the intersection of 7 major canals. It is also a photographer’s delight because it can be seen above from a bridge. Cai Rang and Phong Dien are two other notable floating markets in the  Mekong delta.

Cai Rang Floating Market

Cai Rang Floating Market

Buyers are local traders with bigger boats snapping everything by the bushels and resell at local markets or to wholesale dealers from big cities, often for a handsome profi.
Large floating markets are not complete without its floating restaurants, floating gas stations and an occasional tour boat filled with tourists.

Snake Industry

Another unique industry in this region is the snake farm in the area of My Tho township. In 1977, Lt. Colonel Tran Van Duoc (Tu Duoc), a reptile enthusiast, created Dong Nam Snake Farm. Initially created strictly as a research site for medicinal uses of reptile venom, Dong Nam Snake Farm today is the largest of its kind in Vietnam. The farm boasts 20 different varieties of venomous snakes and is home to other species such as boas, turtles.
Cobras are often soaked along with herbs in large flasks of whisky which can be bought in the snake market in Phung Hiep. This potent drink reportedly will increase your libido as well as cure all sorts of illnesses. Live snakes are also for sale in the market and are exported to other Asian countries to be used as food and medicine.

Major Cities Of The Delta

Long Xuyen
As the capital of An Giang province, Long Xuyen plays a very important role in the commerce of this region. Many of the produce grown in the vicinity are shipped here before being transported elsewhere. With a population over 100,000 people, it has a significant number of catholics as the city boasts the largest Catholic church in the region, seating up to 1000 people.
Long Xuyen is a big town with slow pace living. Unlike its motorized cousin in Can Tho, “Xe Loi” here is pulled by bicycle. 40 km from Long Xuyen is the hilly area of Ba The where the ruins of the Oc Eo civilization dating back to the first century A.D. were discovered. The Oc Eo civilization reached its height in the 5th century and was part of the foundation of the Phu Nam (Funam) kingdom.

Can Tho

Mekong Delta

Ben Tre

Can Tho is 170 km from Saigon. Since the beginning, Can Tho was already given the title Tay Do or Western Capital. It is also the meeting point of the various waterways of the Mekong Delta. Today, it has become an industrious city with big bottling companies and fish sauce factories. It is is home to 220,000 inhabitants.
Can Tho is a busy port capable of accomodating large ships from neighbouring countries. Hau Giang or Hau River is the main channel that passes through Can Tho. The land mass surrounding the river was developed very early so the population in this area is probably the largest in all of the Delta region. The land here is said to be the most fertile because of the deposits from the various branches of the river.
Ben Ninh Kieu is probably the most well known landmark in Can Tho. The port lies on Hau Giang and crosses the city of Can Tho. The city opens to the water front where port Ninh Kieu is the focal point of all activities on the river. Frequent ferries carry passengers to Xom Chai island, just a short distance away and a beautiful sight at sunset(Mekong Delta).

Sa Dec

Sa Dec used to be the capital of Dong Thap province, formerly inhabited by the ancient Phu Nam Kingdom and later the Chan Lap (Tchen La) civilization. In the 1700s, the area was exchanged with the Vietnamese for military aid. Since then many Vietnamese have settled in this area and effectively annexed this whole area. The Chan Lap were subsequently wiped out and assimilated by the Vietnamese and today the population consists mostly people of Chinese, Khmer, Cham and Thai origin.

Sa Dec has become less and less prosperous ever since Cao Lanh was named capital of the province to reward communist cadres from the area after the war ended. New constructions and developments are now occuring in Cao Lanh, the commercial hub of the region(Mekong Delta).

Chau Doc

Chau Doc is the last town in Vietnam before entering Cambodia. The town is located on the right bank of Hau Giang, 5 km away from Sam mountain, the highest point on the Delta. This mountain gets the name from its shape of a king crab, which is “sam” in vietnamese. It is a sacred mountain for many locals since it is dotted with pagodas and temples. Chau Doc is very famous for “ma(‘m”, a type of fermented fish used regularly as food ingredients or garnishes.
With a population of 85,000, Chau Doc is a bustling city with heavy trade of illegal goods crossing the cambodian border. From smugglers on bicycle carrying cartons of cigarettes on their back to boats loaded with VCR and TV sets to new cars originating from Thailand, it seems like anything is fair game in the wild west of Vietnam.

Economy of mekong delta

The region is famous as a large rice growing area. It produces about half of the total of Vietnam’s rice output. Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice globally after Thailand.[10] In fact, the delta produces more rice than Korea and Japan combined. Additionally, the region is home to a large aquacultural industry of basa fish, Tra catfish and shrimp, much of which is exported(Mekong Delta).
Mekong Delta

My Tho

The construction of the Can Tho Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge over the largest distributary of the Mekong River, was completed on April 12, 2010, three years after a collapse that killed 54 and injured nearly 100 workers. The bridge replaces the ferry system that currently runs along National Road 1A, and links Vĩnh Long Province and Cần Thơ city. The cost of construction is estimated to be 4.842 trillion Vietnamese đồng (approximately 342.6 million U.S. dollars), making it the most expensive bridge in Vietnam.

What to do

Highlights of journeys to Mekong Delta are boat trips through canals, floating markets, exploring the local daily life by staying overnight on islands and visiting family run factories; not less interesting, tasting local specialities. The most renowned places in the Mekong Delta are My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho and Chau Doc. This is also a natural passageway from southern Vietnam to Cambodia either by road or by river.

When to go?

Trips to Mekong Delta are suitable all year round but the best time is the monsoon from June to September.

Travel Tips:

If time allowed, Cai Rang floating market is really worth visiting on your way to explore the Mekong Delta. Almost floating markets start in the very early morning and finish before noon(Mekong Delta). Thus, to catch the liveliest and busiest scenery, you should plan to stay one night in Can Tho.

Wherever you go in the delta (except for My Tho), be prepared for ferry crossings which may take you few hours(Mekong Delta).

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