The Mekong Delta is often referred to as the 'Rice Bowl' of Vietnam; a lush green area laden with rice paddies, orchards and coconut palms, which provides over a third of Vietnam's annual crop. Locals know the area as Cuu Long, meaning 'Nine Dragons', named for the nine tributaries of the Mekong River. Life on the river plays a large role here, and most visits are sure to include a boat trip.
Whilst the Mekong Delta is an industrious area, supplying high quantities of produce to the rest of Vietnam and beyond, life here has a delightfully slow-paced feel. Even the riverside factories, which produce everything from rice noodles, to coconut candies, and even bricks, are fairly quaint. Much of the travel is done by boat, or along winding country lanes by bicycle or scooter.
For those short on time, it is possible to catch a glimpse of life in the Delta with days trips from Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho and Ben Tre. For those who can spare a few more days, a journey further south can include some time in Can Tho. This city is the economic centre of the Delta, and feels much more lively compared to the rural areas, although these are still within easy reach, offering bountiful orchards, pretty scenery and friendly locals. Can Tho has the largest floating market in the Delta, with fruit skewered high on wooden poles above the boats to signal what they are selling. Can Tho also has a few cultural sites, including an ornate 'Ancient House' and a museum which delves into the life and history of the region.
Can Tho can be reached by a rather long drive from Ho Chi Minh City, however it does have its own airport, with regular domestic flights to and from Hanoi, Phu Quoc, Con Dao and Danang.
Chau Doc lies on the border with Cambodia, and is very much a melting pot of cultures, races and religions. Whilst it is possible to visit Chau Doc without going on a cruise, most visitors will pass through here on a boat journey between Vietnam to Cambodia.