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Saigon attracts flocks of tourists heading to landmark sights such as the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the Central Post Office, Cu Chi Tunnels, and more. It’s a bustling, dynamic city that can occasionally inspire a deep craving to be in nature, and luckily the Mekong Delta is only a bus ride away.
The Mekong Delta is a big, beautiful maze of water, small islands and fresh air, beckoning Saigoneers for a restful weekend getaway. There are charming, laid-back villages nestled in the lush greenery; here are the top five to visit if you’re in need of a break from the big city.
Can Tho is the largest city in the Mekong Delta. Despite its size, Can Tho remains a peaceful destination owing to its laid-back vibes and charming riverside cafés and restaurants that serve up freshly caught seafood. Its close proximity to Cambodia means there are several stunning Khmer temples to marvel at. Can Tho is most famous for its floating markets, but as the city modernizes these markets may not be around for much longer. It’s best to check out this relaxed, charming city before it’s swallowed up by big business.
This ancient village is nestled in southern Vietnam’s Tiền Giang province. Đông Hòa Hiệp is renowned for its ancient mansions that are available for tourists to experience the opulence of past wealthy Vietnamese. The beautiful homes grow amid lush, fruit-bearing orchards that shield visitors from the blazing sun. Tourists shouldn’t miss the former home of Nguyen Van Duc – this architectural splendor is a romantic blend of Western and Oriental styles. The Cai Be floating market is nearby and makes a great pit-stop either to or from the village.
This small town inside the province of the same name is known for its beautiful waterfront with fisherman minding traditional Vietnamese fishing boats. It’s a local custom to paint the boats with eyes at the front to stave off storms, crocodiles and pirates lurking in the Mekong river! A visit to Bến Tre should include a trip to the colonial Revolutionary Museum, as well as a tour of the local coconut candy factory. Bến Tre also has a lovely riverfront market for you to pick up some fresh fruits and, of course, delightful seafood.
Mỹ Tho is the capital city of Tiền Giang province. Open-air restaurants along the river serve delicious seafood and walking through the alleys and markets is a treat. However, the main attraction for anyone seeking a restful getaway is Mỹ Tho’s proximity to three car-free islands in the Mekong that you can only arrive at by boat. The islands are named Cồn Tân Long, Con Quy and Con Thới Sơn (translated into Dragon, Tortoise, and Unicorn, respectively) and are best seen by the help of a hired boatman who can also show you local fruit plantations. Keep an eye out for the many tropical birds and perhaps even a crocodile or two!
Sa Đéc is a lovely colonial town in the Mekong Delta. The town’s claim to the fame is that it is the setting of the novel The Lover by Marguerite Duras; the school where her mother was a teacher as well as the home of the novel’s protagonist are popular attractions for tourists. There is an authentic market close to the river and plenty of colorful colonial homes to admire, as well as the historical Kien An Chung pagoda in the center of town. Sa Đéc is also home to Flower Village, of the Mekong Delta’s best flower nurseries.