I am not a big fan of doing organised tours. You’re often in a big group, which goes either too hurried or to slow, it’s over priced and most of all, there is no challenge in that, no adventure at all. If you only have a short amount of time in a place and you want to see as much as possible it might be the best option. But I always try to look how I can get to places myself. Luckily I always find fellow adventurous travellers who share this view.
So Lucas and I decided to travel along the Mekong Delta towards the border of Cambodia. Since a lot of travelers are asking how to visit this area, I am going to write a full report of the trip, so people can follow the track, if they like a little bit of adventure 😉 I know, this is normally not my style here on this blog, but I really want to share this with fellow travellers 😀 Also, my photos are not as nice as usual, because some are made for practical use (like how the boats and ferry piers look) and the others were made out of a pretty quickly moving boat…
Ho Chi Minh – Ben Tre
From Ho Chi Minh you can book a bus to Ben Tre. The cheapest way is buy a ticket directly from the bus company, of course. This ride takes about 2 hours. From Ben Tre there is a cargo ship to Tha Vinh that takes a couple of passengers. It only leaves in the early morning, so we left Ho Chi Minh in the late afternoon to spend one night in Ben Tre.
Ben Tre – Tra Vinh
The cargo/ferry leaves at 9 am and costs 150.000 dong. You can find the boat a little down the river, close to the main bridge of Ben Tre. (foto) They put up a hammock for the passengers and you can chill on the deck or in the hammock to enjoy the view of the Mekong. Finally I could look around without worrying I would crash… so I had a chance to see the rice fields and a lot of coconut plantations along the way. This boat ride takes about 4,5 to 5 hours. There is no food on board, so make sure you take something with you.
Tra Vinh – Can Tho
This part you have to do by bus again. There is a tourist bus for 120.000 dong, but we missed the last one (around 3pm). Luckily, because then we discovered that there was a local bus going as well for only 50.000 dong. For 2 hours this bus is perfectly doable. The local bus leaves at the big Coop Mart Supermarket in the centre of Tra Vinh.
In Can Tho we stayed another night. Since, after our road trip, we were already used to looking for hotels (Nha Nghi) on the go instead of booking them online, we did the same here. It is often a lot cheaper as well! Can Tho seems like the heart of the Mekong Delta. It’s a rather big city with a lot of hotels and markets where you can buy anything. There are lot of tours going to the floating markets, but you actually see some of that along the river while you are travelling (although you can’t actually stop to buy something of course). So we decided to just travel to our next destination, which was going to be Ca Mau.
Can Tho – Ca Mau
According to the Lonely Planet, there is a boat that leaves from the pier in Can Tho directly to Ca Mau. This is not the case anymore. So our best option was to take the speedboat/hydrofoil to Song Doc on the coast. From there we could take a bus to Ca Mau. The boat to Song Doc leaves at 1 pm and costs 160, although we had the feeling that the locals paid a little less…
While we were on the way, we asked the captain how we best could go to Ca Mau. With help from google translate we managed to communicate. We could get out a little before the boat would make a turn towards Song Doc (at Thoi Binh) and from there we could easily get a local bus. But then the captain had a better idea and pointed at speedboat in front of us, coming from the other side. ‘Ca Mau!’ he said. He overtook the boat and we did a casual change of boats in the middle of the river. This costed us another 40.000 dong, but we were going to be exactly where we wanted to be. This whole ride took us about 5 hours. It was definitely the most interesting part of the trip, and not only because of the stop-over. From the boat you can see the vibrant life along the Mekong Delta. Instead of on scooters, you see whole families in boats. Markets on and along the water. Fisherman. Cargo boats, transporting everything from coconuts to mechanical parts. Ferries crossing over kids in their school uniforms on their way home. There are even gas stations along the waterside, which is not so weird if you think about it. You can look into people’s homes from the back, and see their laundry drying dangerously close above the water. Every now and then there was a weird sound coming from the engine, and then we stopped. Water plants got stuck in the screw and the boat had to drive a little backwards to lose it. It wouldn’t surprise me though, if half of the time it was plastic which got stuck… Although the Mekong is life for the people here, they use it as a bin as much as a road and a source of food. Locals in our ferry just pushed their trash out of the window! Ouch my sustainable heart.
Ca Mau – Rag Gia
After one night in Ca Mau, we were off to our last destination for this Mekong Delta tour. From Ca Mau to Rag Gia, there is another speedboat leaving at 9 am. It leaves from the ferry pier just down the large bridge of the city, at the same place as where we arrived the day before. Tickets are 110.000 dong and the ride takes another 5 hours.
Rach Gia – Ha Tien
We wanted to get to the border of Cambodia, so we took the bus from Rach Gia to Ha Tien. But if you want to go to Phu Quoc Island, you can take the ferry from here! The buses leave from the main bus station and I think we only paid 70.000 dong for the last two-hour ride.
Here is the map where you can see which route we took. Zoom in at the part South of Vietnam and click on the lines and marks to read the explanation.
It took us 4 days, 3 nights, 3 boats (or actually 4) and a couple of buses to get to the border… BUT, we did our own 4-Day-Mekong Delta tour at the same time, which only cost us (in total) 25€ for transportation, maybe another 15€ for food and about 12€ for accommodation. Bet there is no travel agency which can beat this. And… Adventure is included in the price 😉