Image by Tomáš Malčo Malík
The Mekong is the twelfth longest river in the world. Beginning at the Tibetan Plateau, it crosses through five different countries before reaching southwest Vietnam. Here, it splits into a complex net of smaller rivers that flow out to the South China Sea. This region is aptly known as the Mekong Delta and the rivers that flow throughout have been a main source of life to the ecological environment, residing people groups, and empires for centuries. Of course, to get the full Mekong experience would be to travel along the entire river and discover each culture that shares this valuable resource - which could take you a great deal of effort and a whole year of travel. Thankfully, the Mekong Delta itself has also become home to many of Vietnam’s neighbours - Cambodians, Thais, Chinese - making it the cultural melting pot of the country.
More good news - with AirAsia’s direct flights to Can Tho city, it now only takes you two hours to fly there from Kuala Lumpur so you can plan a quick and inexpensive trip to experience life around the Mekong. In addition to that, Mayflower is also offering a Buy 3 Free 1 promo for a 4D3N tour package to Can Tho! Book now till August 2019 and travel anytime from the day of your booking till December 2019. Here are some exciting things you’ll get to do on this tour and other activities you can also choose to do if you’re organising your own trip.
Image by Quang Nguyen vinh
For many civilisations that develop around a river, day-to-day life revolves around this main water source. In the case of the Mekong Delta, it is the wet market, and quite literally too as locals buy their groceries on floating boats! Yes, similar to the floating markets of Bangkok, there are numerous floating markets around the Mekong Delta where you can buy local fruits, fresh vegetables, and of course - lots of fish! Since you’re in Can Tho, the nearest floating market would be Cai Rang floating market. Other floating markets that are in surrounding provinces are Nga Nam floating market at Soc Trang Province and Nga Bay floating market in Hau Giang Province. The markets open as early as 3 am and start getting really busy at 6 am. Be there early to get the freshest produce and the best bargains.
Image by artstudies
Tuong Cai Luong is Vietnamese for "reformed theatre", which is like watching ancient folklore being told opera-style. Vietnamese folk religion is among the most highly practised original religions in the country which consists of worship rituals to various spirits. Some of the values in Vietnamese folk religion can be attributed to Confucianism as these practices were highly encouraged by the philosopher. A typical Tuong Cai Luong performance promises a treat to the senses, including classical music, modern spoken drama, and Vietnamese folk songs. You can catch a 30 - 50 minute Tuong Cai Luong performance at Ninh Kieu Wharf along the Can Tho river every Saturday night for about USD 250 which goes towards paying the artists - who are of all ages and from different provinces - for their effort.
The Ninh Kieu Wharf is also a popular place to watch the sunset and Mayflower includes a visit here just for the night market where you can put your haggling skills to the test for cheap clothes, handmade accessories, and local fruits. The Ninh Kieu Night Market opens at 5 pm to 11 pm daily.
Just 2 hours and 50 minutes drive from Can Tho is Chau Doc city which is part of An Giang Province that borders Cambodia. The amalgamation of Chinese, Cham, and Khmer communities in this remarkable place is represented by many different temples and pagodas that surround Sam Mountain - whose peak offers a lovely view of the Mekong Delta.
Source: Vietnam Tourism
Included in Mayflower’s tour package is a visit to the beautiful Temple of Lady Chua Xu at the foot of the mountain. If this pretty grey stone temple with oriental roof features and Indian art isn’t captivating enough, its history certainly is. We know that the temple was established as early as 1820, but how it was established is still a friendly debate between two different legends. Visit to find out for yourself!
Another stop on Mayflower’s itinerary is the Al Ehsan Mosque and a nearby Cham Village where wooden houses are built on stilts, possibly for residents to keep dry during floods in the monsoon season. The Cham people in this part of the country are mostly Muslim and it is fascinating to see how they have preserved their lifestyle and culture here.
Tram Chim National Park is a paradise for nature lovers. Only a 2.5 hour drive from Can Tho, the 7,500-hectare park in Dong Thap Province is a wonderful ecosystem of swamps, tall grassy plains, and intertwined canals that is home to 130 different plants species and over 230 different birds. Bird-watching enthusiasts can make a stop here to enjoy their favourite past time, If they’re lucky they might even get a glimpse of Tram Chim’s iconic and rare red-headed crane which now stands at the brink of extinction. Getting around the park is best done on a solar-powered boat for a quieter ride, allowing you to soak up the sounds and sights of untouched nature.
Image by savitour
Before your stomach reels at the mere mention of rat meat, it is actually clean meat of rice field mice roasted in a vase to capture its sweet, meaty essence and nutrients from their strict grain diet. This dish is known as chuot dong quay lu and is available at the markets around Dong Thap province or at most restaurants like Hai Dong Quan Restaurant in Cao Lanh city itself.
There are other unique dishes to be found in the Mekong Delta too. Try eating sam bien go cong which is a grilled tri-spine horseshoe crab. This living fossil might seem weird for consumption but underneath the crab’s military-like shell is where tasty meat and buttery roe can be enjoyed, garnished with mint leaves and other condiments. Sam bien go cong is available at Lang Viet Seafood Restaurant in My Tho city.
For something closer to home, Ben Tre Province offers a specialty dish made of roasted baby shrimp and rice that is steamed in a coconut. It is called com dua tep rang and tastes deliciously light and fluffy for a rice meal. For an authentic culinary experience, visit the floating Nha Hang Noi Ben Restaurant to try this dish. The province has no shortage of coconuts and so you’ll also find other coconut-based dishes available in Ben Tre.
Image by Hotel Iris Can Tho
These experiences can be found all over the Mekong Delta region, giving you good reason to travel beyond Can Tho city. Before you hop back on the plane, treat yourself to cocktails with an incredible view of the city and the Can Tho river at Iris Sky Bar. Since you may be taking advantage of Mayflower’s Buy 3 Free 1 promo tour package to Can Tho, there’s always room for a few rounds of drinks among the four of you. A perfect way of wrapping up your last night in the amazing Mekong Delta. Enjoy!