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Boating in the Mekong Delta - Traveling as the Locals Do

Boating in the Mekong Delta - Traveling as the Locals Do

By Ruby ZhaoUpdated Nov. 2, 2022


The Mekong Delta is a twisting maze of rivers and tributaries that cut through dense jungle and farm fields. Taking boat trips along these sodden waterways and around traditional markets, wooden houses, and family farms is often considered a highlight of traveling in the Delta region.

While on a boat, traveling as the locals do, you will feel truly immersed in Vietnam and the Delta culture. There are many types of boat and many otherwise impossible sights to see from the water, so boating offers countless possibilities of things to see and do.


  • Shop for fruit and flowers from boats in a floating market - on a boat!
  • Take a river cruise past temples, villages, islands, and even a cathedral
  • Take a ride to a river island, and watch how coconut candy and other local foods are produced
  • Take a ride through the narrow and overgrown forests that surround the river

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Starting Out

The majority of the Mekong Delta region can be accessed by a boat of some kind. However, you must first get to a city near the delta. To do this, you are recommended to take a private car from Ho Chi Minh City.

Asia Highlights can provide a private car service, along with a guide who will accompany you to Can Tho or Ben Tre. These are the two main points of entry into the Delta region. Each city has unique sights to see, but the real marvels lie ahead in the Delta.

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Must-See Attractions by Boat

Below are a few of the stops we recommend, if you plan to tour the Mekong Delta by boat.

Cai Rang Floating Market

The Cai Rang floating market is not only famous in Vietnam, but all around the world, as one of the busiest markets of its kind. Local farmers and vendors come to the market early in the morning and jostle for the best parking spot from which to sell their fruit and flowers.

The market is an interesting cultural experience and an excellent place for grabbing a healthy breakfast. You are recommended to try to reach the market in the morning, to avoid the heat and see it at its busiest time.

Sampan Ride Through Narrow Canals

You will never feel as completely immersed in the local environment as you will on a wooden sampan, getting pushed through the narrow canals that locals use to travel on the periphery of the river. A personal favorite of the staff at Asia Highlights, the overgrown foliage around these narrow canals gives this type of boat ride a very different feel from riding a motor boat on the main river.

Visit a Local Orchard

When you explore a floating market, you might find yourself admiring the wealth of fresh produce. Visiting a local orchard gives you the opportunity to see how this produce is grown, as well as a chance to see how local farmers live and work.

The orchards are beautiful, well maintained groves of often delicious-smelling trees. Stopping in an orchard can be both relaxing and educational.

Stop at the Home of a Local and See a Traditional Wooden House

After a long day on a boat, it can be important to get off and stretch your legs. Walking around one of the many islands sprinkled throughout the area is an excellent way to do just this. At some, you will even be able to rent a bike, if that is more your speed.

If possible, enter the home of a local. Most houses in the area are built well away from the river and its hostile tides, but many are built on stilts right above the water. Sharing a meal with a local in one of these traditional houses can be a truly memorable experience.

If you travel with Asia Highlights, this stop and many others can be arranged for you.

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Float by the Cao Dai Temple and Cai Be Cathedral

Vietnam is a predominately Buddhist country and the Mekong River is lined with towering temples. One of the most famous and conveniently located is the Cao Dai temple. You can admire its impressive architecture from a boat, or make a stop and walk around inside. (Most choose to experience the views from the water.)

Another popular landmark along the water is the Cai Be cathedral. At almost 100 years old, the building is impressive, and creates a marked contrast with the landscape and architecture around it. This stop is particularly pleasant in the evening, when the setting sun provides excellent photo opportunities of the cathedral next to the water.

Experience the Thua Thua Irrigation Canals

Much of the water that flows through the Mekong River Delta is used for farming. In the Thua Thua area you can ride a sampan or small motor boat up some of the irrigation canals cut by farmers to move water inland to their crops. The Mekong Delta area is a famous regional producer of agriculture and a tour of these canals highlights how extensive and important farming is in the region.

In addition to being educational, the canals feel like a natural extension of the river, and the sprawling farms and orchards create a beautiful landscape.

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Tips for boat trips

  • Bring an outer layer of clothing, as wind on the boats can create a chill.
  • Sun exposure on the water can become intense, so bring lots of sunscreen.
  • When docking, make sure when the boat is leaving again, so you are not left behind.
  • Loop your purse or backpack around your arm or leg at all times, to prevent your belongings from ending up in the river.
  • Whenever possible, book tours and hire guides to prevent getting lost or missing connecting boat rides.

Explore Asia with Asia Highlights

At Asia Highlights we offer tailor-made tours through Asia, where you can enjoy all highlights as well as amazing cultural experiences. To get started, send us an email.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights During the Pandemic

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