Mekong Delta by private sampan
The Mekong Delta feeds a good half of Vietnam, its fertile waterways rich with nutrients that travel hundreds of miles through neighbouring countries, ending up in fisheries and rice fields. Stilt-houses line the quiet backwaters, and floating markets bob and jostle as farmers trade produce and hot breakfasts in the early morning. It makes sense to explore the Delta by boat, particularly if it’s your own private sampan - the traditional Delta houseboat, built to navigate narrow channels that the deep-hulled tourist boats cannot.
What to expect on a Delta sampan...
Accompanied only by a discreet, well trained crew comprising a chef, personal guide, and river pilot, you’ll glide past the glossy water hyacinths that line the Delta’s banks, seeing beautiful gardens, diverse farms, and boats selling local produce.
Wildlife here is fantastic too; hundreds of new species have been discovered in recent years. The sampans’ design is well suited to mooring up in quiet beauty spots for scenic meals, and to disembark for excursions on dry land - they even have bike racks, letting you thoroughly explore by another traditional means of transport.
We especially love the way that your sampan can slip into the waterways that are too shallow for the tourist boats, giving you unprecedented access to parts of the Delta that most visitors don't see.
There are several routes to choose from, covering both the quieter waters and more popular places of interest, such as Cai Rang’s chaotic floating market, where many of Ho Chi Minh City’s top restaurateurs source their ingredients. Ancient gardens, traditional tile factories, fine French Colonial restaurants, the historic house of Marguerite Duma’s lover, riverbank bike rides, Cao Daist temples… these can all be included in (or excluded from) your itinerary, depending on preference.
The vessels are modern, but built to a traditional design that very much invokes the spirit of Vietnam, with gleaming dark planks and woven rattan walls and ceilings. A row of big windows runs the length of the boat, with a furnished sundeck in the prow, and outdoor breakfast area to stern.
Bedrooms are beautiful, their large low beds covered in silk and festooned with nets, woven hyacinth mats on the floor, and rattan furniture - all very natural and charming.
Meals are often served on board, with plenty of fresh fruit and tea for snacks, but there are also several opportunities to enjoy excellent local cuisine on land, from tasty market morsels to a romantic candlelit dinner served in one of the Delta’s ancient houses.
The sampans are certainly perfect for honeymooners and couples (the crew are sensitive enough to get out of the way when you don’t need them) but multi-cabin boats are available for groups of up to six - excellent for families and friends.
Location: Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Duration: 1-4 days
Accommodation: private sampan with 1, 2 or 3 cabins
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'This is Delta life as it's meant to be experienced - at your own pace, in a local boat, puttering around the beautiful backwaters.'
What we say...
It’s hard to imagine a better way to see the Mekong Delta than on these charming private boats with their traditional design and thoughtful local crews.