The River Mekong flows south of Saigon before emptying into the South China Sea. Along the way it provides the life blood for fruit farmers, fishermen and entire communities living on the water and along its banks. Exploring the Mekong's narrow tributaries leads to backwaters where the pace of life is far slower than the river's current. Slipping into neighbouring Cambodia and beyond, by way of the Mekong's murky waters, is a far greater achievement than day trippers from Ho Chi Minh City will ever realise.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Floating down the Mekong itself isn’t the only way to follow the river’s path through Vietnam. Tarmac roads and dirt tracks stretch alongside the banks giving bikes, buses and motorbikes the chance to plot trails through the Delta and around the region's backwaters. As one of Vietnam's most densely populated areas, the Mekong is alive with industry and you'll pass through fruit orchards, rice paddies and sugar cane plantations that supply the country’s unceasing demand for fresh produce. Crossing into Cambodia, and the rest of Indochina, by river and road gives travellers a chance to be just that: travellers.
As you experience life on the Mekong, you'll become aware of its inhabitants living in every accessible area. The river's tributaries stretch out across the Delta to form nine major waterways, known as the Nine Dragons, as well as a series of smaller channels. After a friendly introduction to a few of the farmers who work under the shade of the palm trees and in the fruit orchards, you’ll get a little insight into the unique rhythms of life in these secluded backwaters. You'll soon discover welcoming villages, craft workshops and floating markets, which may make you wonder whether the Mekong's backwaters are as 'sleepy' as they have a reputation for being.
Some stretches of the Mekong in Vietnam are immensely wide and there are several large, mid-stream islands surrounded by its gently lapping (though often rather muddy) waters. These islands are home to a number of cottage industries, and many of the working farms and bamboo covered work spaces are open to the public. There's always a wrought iron tea urn on the go in the workshops and the combination of acrid wood smoke and freshly-made coconut sweets is one to really savour. Island hopping on the Mekong, swapping boat for bike along the way, gets you deeper into the Delta to experience real life away from the tourist crowds.
Embark on a journey through Vietnam’s less-visited north - lush rolling hills, remote villages and friendly locals, with a side of morning noodles in Hanoi.