Is a day trip to the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh City worth it? The short answer: Probably not.
The standard day tour takes you two hours south of HCMC, shuffles you around to a bunch of tourist traps, and then, takes you another two hours back to the city. We booked our private tour through the Intercontinental Hotel, and the itinerary mirrors pretty much every other tour company out there. From what I read, a day trip is simply not enough time to get to the most interesting and off-the-beaten-track parts of the Mekong Delta.
That said, we didn’t have a bad time. In fact, we had a good time. We laughed at the silly tourist gimmicks, took funny pictures (at least we found them funny), played with the local children, and got to see a sliver of the Mekong Delta’s famous waterways.
After a pleasant two drive in an air-conditioned van, we rode a boat to a small local establishment that produces its own honey, tea, and other food items. They offered us samples and tried to convince us to buy. That is the model for nearly every stop along the tour.
I’m not sure why we thought this was a good idea. We both freaked out completely.
The bees, the bees, there comes the bees! (Bonus points if anyone gets that archaic reference.)
Afterwards, an old-fashioned coach picked us up (remember what I said about it being touristy?) and transported us down the road to another small establishment, where we sampled local fruit and listened to a musical performance.
The little girl gave me the flower I’m holding in the picture below. According to our tour guide, the flower symbolizes her love for me. Guess what guys? I’M LOVABLE.
Some weird-looking local fruit.
I could have played with the kids forever, but it was time for the official highlight of the Mekong Delta tour – a short boat ride down the Delta’s narrow waterways. Mekong Delta means “nine dragon river” in Vietnamese, a reference to the southern Vietnamese region where the Mekong River empties into the sea through many small streams.
I could not get over how strong these women are. They row boatfuls of people all day without so much as a whimper. They make my meager five pushups a day look even more meager.
So is a day trip to the Mekong Delta worth it?
Yes, we enjoyed ourselves, but I did not feel like the tour was worth the $100 hefty price tag. You can decrease that price significantly by joining a group tour, but you’ll be getting the same touristy show with less comfort. If you have time to spare in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s not a bad way to burn the hours. But I would happily have exchanged our day in the Mekong Delta for other towns in Vietnam that I fell madly in love with. Plus, there was the small matter of the hives that broke out all over my body that night… but that is a story for another day.