In a couple of days I will be leaving Ho Chi Minh City for a two night trip to the Mekong Delta. It is called the Mekong Delta because it is here that the Mekong River divides into nine different channels and ends its 3,050 mile run by flowing into the South China Sea. The region lies in the southern most part of Vietnam and occupies about 15,000 sq miles. From Ho Chi Minh, the closest destinations in the Mekong Delta are only a one or two-hour bus ride west of the city. However, Phu Quoc, an island in the western most region of the Mekong, is an hour plane ride from Ho Chi Minh and would take an entire day to get there by bus or car.
The shaded in region on this map is the Mekong Delta region.
The region borders Cambodia and up until the late 1600’s, the Mekong Delta was part of Khmer territory. Vietnamese began settling in the area in the early 1600’s and their settlement coincided with Khmer war with Thailand. This resulted in a weakened Khmer state and detachment of the Mekong Delta from Cambodia, and a transfer of control to the Vietnamese. In the mid 1800’s, when the French came to seize control of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta was France’s first colony and the French controlled all of the waterways. These waterways were invaded by foreigners for a second time during the Vietnam War (or American War as it’s called here), as the Viet Cong and the U.S Navy fought all throughout the region. In the mid 1970’s the Mekong faced further foreign invasion, but this time from neighboring Cambodia, which was at the time under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge sought to regain control of the region and their attack on the Mekong Delta prompted Vietnam to invade Cambodia and eventually capture Phnom Penh, ending the rule of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The Mekong Delta is rich in history and natural landscape.
The Mekong Delta is also known as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam because half of Vietnam’s rice is grown there and Vietnam is second only to Thailand in global exportation of rice. In addition to rice, the Mekong is famous for its Floating Markets, fresh seafood, various temples and pagodas, bird and flower sanctuary’s, and (somewhat) beautiful beaches.
The duration of a single trip to the Mekong can vary from a day to multiple weeks. For tourists completing a whirlwind tour of Vietnam, a day trip led by a tour guide is often a popular choice. For travelers hoping to explore the entire region to its fullest, at least a couple of weeks is needed and people often rent motorbikes and small boats to get access to all different parts of the region. For an English teacher, who as of now is only working on the weekends and is looking for something to do during the week, a two night trip is ideal. I will only be visiting a couple of the major towns in the Delta, but I’m hoping it will be enough time to try out various foods, explore local markets and see some temples and pagodas. I’m very excited for the trip and I hope it will be one of many trips I take to the area. Stay tuned!!!