Photo Credit: meducauk

While moped-crazed Hanoi and the faded, colonial glamour of Saigon generate a lot of tourist hype, a cruise down the Mekong River will give you a first-hand glimpse at another side of Vietnam.

There is a stark difference between Vietnam’s crowded and burgeoning cities and its rural countryside. If you want to explore Vietnam’s more traditional way of life, then the 13 provinces and 40,000 km that make up the Mekong Delta region is a good place to start.

The Nine Dragons Delta 

The Mekong Delta region is well known for its biodiversity, flood plains, farming villages and rice production. The landscape is lush and verdant. The local villagers and fishermen, however, do not call the region by the same name that tourists and outsiders do. Due to the fact that the Mekong River branches off into nine separate channels before it empties into the sea, they call the Mekong Delta the Nine Dragons Delta.

Whatever you want to call it; the region is a warren-like maze of canals and tributaries, with rural villages and floating markets scattered around every bend in the river. The only way to reach some of these villages is by boat. In other words, you are a long way from the bustling streets and relentless mopeds of Hanoi.

On The River 

There is serenity to this region of Vietnam that you will not find elsewhere. Village life along the river has little in common with Vietnam’s popular cities, and after a few days on the water the modern world and everything it entails will seem like a distant memory. You will pass lush rice fields, fruit orchards, fish farms and bird sanctuaries. Natively named villages like Cai Rang, Cai Be, Phu Quoc and Tra On will slowly glide by as modernity ceases to be a comprehensible theme.

Sightseeing in Slow Motion

When you are on the Mekong River, the idea of sightseeing takes on a whole new dimension. In other words, it is not a hectic and endless pursuit to cross things off an over-stuffed itinerary, as is often the case when you are touring a big city. River sightseeing is done is slow motion. Highlights of your cruise include the Khmer pagodas in Soc Trang and Tra Vink.

The Mekong Delta region is world renowned for its floating markets, and the best markets in the area can be found in Cai Be and Cai Rang. In the Mekong region, these markets are the centre of trade and commerce. Farmers will bring their fruits, vegetables, flowers and handcrafted goods from miles away. Take a bite out of an exotic durian or stock up on some dragon fruit. You will not find these delicacies at your average grocery store!

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