Mekong Delta - Rice Bowl of Vietnam and the World
Map of Mekong Delta - Vietnam Tours
Tours in Mekong Delta - Vietnam Relaxing Holiday: The mighty Mekong River is one of the longest rivers in the world, it goes through 6 countries from China, to the border between Laos and Thailand, to Cambodia, and Vietnam before it empties in the East Sea (You may know with the name South China Sea, but Vietnamese don’t say that). This long river makes up the large Delta, the second in the world after Amazon River Delta. The Mekong Delta - or Cuu Long in Vietnamese - consists of nine branches (the Nine Dragons) of the mighty Mekong River, which begins its long journey to the East Sea (south China Sea) in the mountains of Tibet.
The delta is the life-blood of southern Vietnam, nourishing the region's rice paddies, vegetable plots and fruit orchards. The Mekong Delta provides an excellent opportunity to observe and experience traditional Vietnamese rural life. A boat trip through the myriad canals offers travelers a real insight to life in the countryside: peasant hard at work in their paddy fields, water buffaloes, tangled fruit orchards, simple, thatched-roof dwellings, temples, fishermen and excited children everywhere.
In the delta's towns - the major ones being Mytho, Caibe & Vinhlong, Cantho and Chaudoc - the river remains the central focus of daily life. Ferries ply its waters transporting people and goods to market or home after a long day's work, while providing a valuable link with the rest of the country and region. Travelers exploring the Mekong Delta will be well rewarded.
Experience the traditional floating markets in Can Tho, effectively unchanged for hundreds of years and not yet spoiled by tourism as in Thailand, explore the many beautiful islands that surround My Tho, just a short distance from Saigon, or a touch of Mekong Delta life in Caibe and Vinhlong.
• If you have just one full day, you can choose the options of Mytho or Caibe
• If you have one night, you can have homestay in Vinhlong if you are adventurous, or in deluxe hotel in Cantho.
• If you want to do boat up Mekong River to Pnom Phenh, then you need to have two nights in Cantho and Chaudoc before boat up to Pnom Phenh, Cambodia the third day.
Mekong Delta Floating Market
The Mekong Delta is the bottom half of Vietnam's two rice baskets, the other being the Red River Delta in the North . This vast delta is formed by the deposition of the multiple tentacles and tributaries of the mighty Mekong River which has its origin in the Tibetan highland plateau 2,800 miles away. From its source, the river makes its way through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam before flowing out into the South China Sea. The Mekong's Vietnamese name, Cuu Long, means Nine Dragons for the nine mouths that terminate the flow of this great river as it is absorbed by the sea.
The people of south Vietnam are often very proud of the richness and vastness of this land. When referring to the rice fields in this area, they often say, "co bay thang canh", meaning the land is so large that the cranes can stretch their wings as they fly. Today, the region is one of Vietnam's highest producer of rice crops, vegetables and fruits.
Life On The Mekong
The Mekong Delta was an ancient Khmer territory. The area was mostly marshland and forest. When the Nguyen Lords took control of this region, a series of canals were built and a system of transportation was implemented in the maze of water ways in the area.
The Mekong Delta is divided into 9 provinces: Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Dong Thap, An Giang, Vinh Long, Kien Giang, Hau Giang and Minh Hai. The people in this region are made up of Vietnamese and some people of Khmer, Chinese and Cham origin. This accounts for the variety of religions that add to the cultural diversity of this area. Among the religions practiced here are: Buddhism, Catholicism, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and Islam.
The southwest region of Vietnam is known for the vast rice fields and the huge plantations that make up the core of this region's economy. The region is also known for the many miles of waterways criss-crossing the land making this area both fertile and unique.
The majority of Vietnam's fruits come from the many orchards of the Mekong Delta. On any given season, one can find a variety of tropical fruits that are produced by farmers of this region in the markets of Saigon, Hue, and Ha Noi. For many tropical fruits, the season is very short because they cannot be picked green and they don't last long in storage where they quickly loose their aroma. The greatest variety of fruits is available during the raining season, from June to September in the South. After they are picked, the fruits are transported on small boats to floating markets where they are sold to wholesale dealers. In the off-season, many orchards become flower nurseries to meet the peak demand for flowers during the new year celebration in the big cities. The orchards are divided by a myriad of small irrigation canals with delicate bamboo bridges called "Cau Khi" or monkey bridges crossing them.
Life On The River
The people living in the Mekong Delta make their living as farmers and fishermen. Often, they live right on the edge of the rivers or canals on various structures built from whatever materials found. Consequently, the architecture along the delta varies from place to place. Often, many homes have fisheries right under them. Enterprising individuals build a cage like structure of bamboo beneath their homes on these waterways to house fishes. As the fishes grew, they sell the whole batch to processors from the city and start with new ones. Life in the delta is tightly woven with its rivers as daily activities and businesses are conducted on its banks. Markets, stores, ship yards, repair shops are some of the more popular trades.
Floating markets are held every morning from 5:00 to about 11:00. Phung Hiep market is the biggest since it is located at the intersection of 7 major canals. It is also a photographer's delight because it can be seen above from a bridge. Cai Rang and Phong Dien are two other notable floating markets in the delta. Boats loaded with produce from nearby orchards of the Mekong Delta converge to the floating market. They carry mostly fruits but also coconuts, vegetables and fishes. Buyers are local traders with bigger boats snapping everything by the bushels and resell at local markets or to wholesale dealers from big cities, often for a handsome profit. Large floating markets are not complete without its floating restaurants, floating gas stations and an occasional tour boat filled with tourists.
Tropical Fruits in Vietnam
The Mangosteen is a fruit that is unique to South-East Asia. The fruit is extremely hard to grow and it often takes 8-15 years for a tree to bear fruits. The rind of the mangosteen is dark purple marked by a yellowish resin. In terms of size and shape, the mangosteen is similar to the Japanese persimmon. It is also compared to a small tomato. When sliced at the equator, the mangosteen yields white segments of flesh. These segments taste sweet and sour and have a slight acid after-taste similar to grapes or strawberries.
The Rambutan, also known unofficially as Hairy Cherry, has its origin in the tropical low-lands of Malaysia. The name rambutan came from the Malay word 'rambut' for hair. Today, the rambutan is grown in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The fruit is about 5 cm long and has soft fleshy hair from 2 to 3 cm long over the entire surface. The peel turns from green to yellow to red as the fruit ripens. Once peeled the fruit yields a flesh that is white and firm. The rambutans grow in large bunches on trees that are 20 m high.
Sapodilla is one of several fruits which were brought to South-East Asia from Central America. During their occupation of the Philippines, the Spaniard brought this fruit to the country and eventually it was exported to the rest of region. When ripe, the fruit is very sweet, and has a molasses-like taste. The peel is thin and brown and the flesh itself is light brown. It is best eaten a couple days after it is picked, to wait for its resin to dry.
Sweet-sop, sugar-apple, and custard-apple are names given to this fruit from South America. Like the pomegranate, the sweet-sop is packed with seeds. The edible pulp is a thin layer covering the individual seed. The outer layers appear to be rough and scaly. The fruit is green even when it is ripe.
In Vietnamese, "long nhan" means dragon eye. The Longan is a close relative to the litchi. Longans are grown mostly in the cooler highlands of South-East Asia. It was brought here by Chinese immigrants as they migrated south and settled in various areas. The peel is brown and brittle. The meat is translucent white and is very juicy and sweet. In Vietnam, dried longans are cooked in water to make a dessert drink called 'nuoc long nhan'.
The starfruit is a native fruit of South-East Asia. The fruit has a distinct taste and is often used in cooking. When sliced cross-wise, the pieces look like five distinct-angled stars. Consequently, the fruit is a must in certain Vietnamese dishes as garnishes. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. Starfruits grow in cluster of three of four. The sizes vary from 5cm to 17cm. The fruit is green when young, turning yellow to almost orange and slightly translucent when ripe. Starfruit's skin is quite tough while the flesh is soft, juicy, sweet and sour tasting.
The papaya originated in Central America, and came to the Philippines during the Spanish occupation of this country. The fruit eventually spread throughout South-East Asia. The papaya tree bears only either male or female flowers with the female tree producing the fruits. Consequently, the male tree must be close by to pollinate the female flowers. The fruits are large, weighing up to 9 kg and often look like a large squash. The skin is thin like those of the watermelon and turns from green to yellow and orange as the fruit ripens. The flesh of the papaya may be yellow, orange, or reddish orange and has a consistency of a very ripe (soft) cantaloupe. Papayas are sweet and are used as dessert. In Vietnam, a popular dish using green papaya is "gỏi đu đủ bò khô", a salad like dish with shredded green papaya and shredded beef jerky eaten with a special hot sauce.
The guava originated in the tropical region of the Americas and reached South-East Asia in the 17th century. Guava fruits are either round or pear-shaped, with thin dark green skin which becomes yellowish green as the fruits ripen. The fruits range from small tomato size to as large as 13 cm in length. Some Vietnamese like to eat the guava when it is not completely ripe. The flesh is crunchy much like eating a slice of apple. Sometime, the guava slice is dipped in a mixture of salt and grounded red chili pepper. The Mekong Delta's Xá Lị variety is probably the most famous in all of Vietnam.
The waterapple is native to the South-East Asia. The coloring of the fruit varies from pale green to ruby red. The waterapple is bell-shaped and is about 5 cm in diameter. The center of the fruit is hollow and is filled with woolly fibers and brown seeds. The waterapple has a slightly acid flavor and can be very sour. Vietnamese often use the waterapplase as offerings at the altar because of their vibrant colors.
The corossolier is a close relative to the sweep-sop. In terms of size, the fruit is substantially larger than the sweet-sop with some fruits weighing as much as 1.5 kg. The peel is smoother with tiny spikes (more like bumps). These spikes turn black as the fruit ripens. The corossolier has less seeds than the sweetsop and the meat is more firm, almost chewy. In general, the fruit has a sweet and sour taste. In Vietnam, the corrosolier is blended with condensed milk and ice to make a delicious fruit drink. During the Tet season, the corossolier is preserved with sugar to make a candy-like treat called mứt.
The Jackfruit is a native fruit of Asia. It has its origin in India, though after many centuries of trade, it reached South-East Asia where it is considered a delicacy. Jackfruits come in many shapes and sizes, although generally they are oblong or pear shaped. They can grow to 90 cm long and can weigh up to 44 kg. The name Jack is believed to be a Portuguese mispronunciation of a Malay word meaning round. Jackfruits have a thick pale green rind with thousands of sharp hexagonal spines. Once cut open, the interior yields dozens of individual golden yellow pulps. The meat of the pulp covers a large brown pit. When ripe, the meat is sweet. The pit can be boiled and eaten as well. The wood from the jackfruit tree is very strong. Sometimes, it is used to make furniture and to build houses. In the north, the wood from the jackfruit tree is carved into statues in pagodas.
Although the banana can be found throughout the tropics, it is a native fruit to South East Asia. Reference to the banana was first made in the Epics of the Pali Buddhist canon in 500 BC. Bananas were exported to Africa from Indonesia around 1,500 years ago. Consequently, reference to this fruit can be found in the Koran as the Tree of Paradise. The banana plant has no woody tissue, so it is not considered a tree at all, but a giant herb. The banana plant can grow to height of 4 to 8 m, depending on the variety. Today, Vietnam boasts 28 different varieties of banana from plantains (used in cooking) to the dwarf banana (finger size).