THE MIGHTY MEKONG
The Mekong Delta is one of Vietnam’s most unlikely pockets of geography. The Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers, begins in Tibet, descends through China, touches Myanmar and Thailand, winds through Laos and Cambodia, and ends right here in southern Vietnam. But before it spills into the sea it splinters into several smaller rivers, feeding the land with nutrients and perfecting the land for farming.
An enormous nutrient-rich patch of land didn’t go unnoticed by early settlers, which is why it’s been fought over for thousands of years, from early struggles between the Cham and Khmer right up until the civil war. But peace won out in the end, and now it’s one of Vietnam’s iconic landscapes.
Here you can tuck into Vietnam’s freshest food, get lost in a myriad canal network, and crisscross farms on a bicycle.
Gentle Cycling to Soothe the Soul
Like virtually every other river delta in the world, the Mekong Delta is entirely flat. This makes it a great place to hop on a bicycle and craft your own adventure, whether you’re an avid cyclist or not. Take in everything that the Mekong Delta has to offer as you drift from temple to farm to traditional house to floating market. Make friends along the way – the people in southern Vietnam are famous for their friendliness – and always be on the lookout for a hammock café (which are everywhere) or somewhere to enjoy a sundowner.
Dreamlike Floating Markets in the Mekong
For some travelers the Mekong Delta is synonymous with floating markets, and it’s easy to see why. These colorful and unlikely ways of trading are spread throughout the region, ranging from small affairs with just a few boats to grand spectacles where market “stalls” number in the hundreds.
The best way is to experience these vibrant occurrences is to hop in a small boat and see things from water level. Paddle around boats stacked with pink dragon fruit and green vegetables and look out for buyers and sellers striking an animated deal.
An Absorbing and Romantic History in the Mekong
Eternalized and romanticized in films such as The Lover, the Mekong Delta is one of Southeast Asia’s quintessential landscapes. But behind the serene and tranquil vistas lies a compelling history that concerns large chunks of the world. The Vietnamese conquered the Cham and claimed the land from the Khmer, only to be colonized by the French soon after.
Understanding the agricultural value of the delta, European and Asian businesspeople set up shop here and built grand mansions along the riverbanks. Though usually far from the fighting, the Mekong Delta played an important part during the war as well: Ho Chi Minh reportedly worried that without the food production capabilities of the south, the north would starve.
Tropical Fruit and Traditional Houses of the Mekong
The Mekong Delta may be Vietnam’s rice bowl, but don’t think that’s all you can find down south. The fruit in southern Vietnam is the best in the country, and visiting a fruit farm is the best way to take it all in.
Here you can eat to your heart’s content, from tangy mangos to sharp pineapples. There also fascinating houses here that belong (or belonged) to important people in the region’s history, including colonial bureaucrats, Chinese traders, and various leaders of the ethnic minority groups.
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